A Passage to India

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harcourt Brace Jovanovich edition of A Passage to India published in 1984.
Part 1, Chapter 2 Quotes

“You understand me, you know what others feel. Oh, if others resembled you!”
Rather surprised, she replied: “I don’t think I understand people very well. I only know whether I like or dislike them.”
“Then you are an Oriental.”

Related Characters: Dr. Aziz (speaker), Mrs. Moore (speaker)
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Forster sets in motion the cultural politics that drive the entire novel. Mrs. Moore, an elderly visitor from England, has come to India. In this scene she steps into a mosque at night, and makes the accidental acquaintance of a young Indian man named Dr. Aziz. Aziz and Mrs. Moore feel an immediate connection. Interestingly, their connection flowers when Mrs. Moore admits that she doesn't feel like she belongs among her English friends: she says that she judges people instinctively and automatically. Aziz claims that doing so makes Moore "an Oriental."

What's going on here? Aziz's pronouncement suggests that there's a fundamental difference between English and Eastern cultures: the English are analytical and reasonable, while the Indians are instinctive, imaginative, and receptive to their own "guts." Of course, one could argue that such a distinction is just Forster's own biased opinion: Aziz's pronouncement sounds more like what a English person would think about the Indians that what an Indian person might say about himself. The word "Oriental," which has come to be rather offensive in the century since Forster's death, adds another layer to the passage's potential bias.


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Part 1, Chapter 4 Quotes

…young Mr. Sorley, who was advanced, said Yes; he saw no reason why monkeys should not have their collateral share of bliss, and he had sympathetic discussions about them with his Hindu friends… And the wasps? He became uneasy during the descent to wasps, and was apt to change the conversation. And oranges, cactuses, crystals, and mud? And the bacteria inside Mr. Sorley? No, no, this is going too far. We must exclude someone from our gathering, or we shall be left with nothing.

Related Characters: Mr. Sorley
Related Symbols: Wasps
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

Forster's novel is all about the differences and commonalities between the Indians and the English. In this passage, we're introduced to Mr. Sorley, a missionary who only appears in this scene, and who makes an interesting point about the resemblances between his own culture and India's. Sorley notes that his model of religion argues that only good human souls can make it to Heaven. In India, Sorley has learned, some Hindus believe that all beings, whether they're germs or plants or animals, can attain a measure of Heaven after they die. Mr. Sorley wants to exclude such life forms from Heaven--he believes that the stability of the very idea of Heaven depends on excluding certain kinds of people or beings from privilege. And yet even Sorley is a very "liberal" Christian--he goes so far as to suggest that intelligent animals like monkeys might be able to have their own share of "bliss." It is when the animal world descends to the level of wasps, however--the novel's symbol of this kind of unity or exclusion--that Sorley grows uncomfortable.

Sorley is a liberal, openminded Christian, but he still sees the world in relatively exclusive terms: he thinks that only some people should be rewarded for their behaviors--Heaven can't be for everyone. The irony is that Indian society itself is even more exclusive than English society, it could be argued: due to the caste system (which was still in place at the time), there was essentially no social mobility in Indian society. Indians and the English seem to have exactly one thing in common: their societies depend upon dividing and excluding certain kinds of people from certain kinds of places.

Part 1, Chapter 5 Quotes

“You’re superior to them, anyway. Don’t forget that. You’re superior to every one in India except one or two of the Ranis, and they’re on an equality.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Turton (speaker), Adela Quested, Mrs. Moore
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

The racism of the English towards the Indians--indeed, towards all non-English people--is clear in this passage. At a party, Mr. Turton, the political officer of the area in which the novel is set, has invited some Indian and English guests. Mrs. Turton, his wife, shows her guests Adela and Mrs. Moore through the party, noting that some Indian women are there. Turton assures Adela that she's superior to the Indians.

Why is Mrs. Turton so sure that Adela is "superior?" It's safe to assume that Mrs. Turton believes that nearly all Englishwomen are superior to the Indian people--because the English themselves are better than the Indians. Mrs. Turton embodies the worst kind of racism of the English people--a form of racism that can actually come across as a form of politeness in some situations. (Here, for instance, Mrs. Turton is complimenting her guests; it's just that her compliment hinges on certain offensive premises.) While Forster shows how the English men actually wield the power of colonialism and can make destructive decisions that affect multitudes of people, he generally portrays the English women as even worse in their casual racism--and Mrs. Turton is a prime example of this.

I’m going to argue, and indeed dictate,” she said, clinking her rings. “The English are out here to be pleasant.”
“How do you make that out, mother?” he asked, speaking gently again, for he was ashamed of his irritability.
“Because India is part of the earth. And God has put us on earth in order to be pleasant to each other. God… is… love.” She hesitated, seeing how much he disliked the argument, but something made her go on. “God has put us on earth to love our neighbors and to show it, and he is omnipresent, even in India, to see how we are succeeding.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Moore (speaker), Ronny Heaslop (speaker)
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Mrs. Moore suggests that she's one of the most tolerant and open-minded English people in the novel. Mrs. Moore is upset by what she sees as her peers' racism and cruelty to their Indian neighbors. Moore, still a Christian at this point, insists that English people owe it to themselves and their faith to be polite and loving to all people, Indian and otherwise.

Mrs. Moore's tolerance and ideas of universal unity come as welcome alternatives to the other guests' racism. And yet her form of tolerance is essentially a-cultural--she sees the world in pleasant yet bland terms of love, acceptance, and friendship; at this point she seems to have no real knowledge of India.

Part 1, Chapter 6 Quotes

Concentrated on the ball, they somehow became fond of one another, and smiled when they drew rein to rest. Aziz liked soldiers – they either accepted you or swore at you, which was preferable to the civilian’s hauteur – and the subaltern liked anyone who could ride…
They reined up again, the fire of good fellowship in their eyes. But it cooled with their bodies, for athletics can only raise a temporary glow. Nationality was returning, but before it could exert its poison they parted, saluting each other. “If only they were all like that,” each thought.

Related Characters: Dr. Aziz, The Soldier
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Aziz plays polo with a British soldier. To their mutual surprise, Aziz and the soldier seem to get along well--in spite of the fact that the soldier is a representative of English aggression against India, and despite the fact that they're playing a physical, potentially violent game, Aziz and the soldier come to genuinely respect one another over the course of the match.

The passage is a kind of metaphor for the relationship between India and Britain--or at least what it could be. Aziz and the soldier maintain their cultural identities, and yet they get along while continuing to respect each other's differences. Their relationship is amicable, and yet very different from the utopian "God loves" philosophy outlined by Mrs. Moore in the previous chapter--here, it is culture (English culture!) that facilitates the friendship between Aziz and the soldier. Notice, too, that the friendship is only temporary--national differences can be suspended, but only briefly. (And Forster will later highlight the irony of this by having the same soldier viciously condemn Aziz, contrasting him with the "good" Indian he played polo with--who was, unbeknownst to him, Aziz himself.)

Part 1, Chapter 7 Quotes

The world, he believed, is a globe of men who are trying to reach one another and can best do so by the help of goodwill plus culture and intelligence – a creed ill suited to Chandrapore, but he had come out too late to lose it. He had no racial feeling; not because he was superior to his brother civilians, but because he had matured in a different atmosphere, where the herd instinct does not flourish.

Related Characters: Cyril Fielding
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, we're introduced to one of the most sympathetic characters in the novel, Cyril Fielding. Cyril is unique among the English character insofar as he seems not to think in racial terms--he doesn't look down on his Indian neighbors in any way, since he wasn't brought up to be a competitive, nationalistic person. Cyril is an educator, and his emphasis on education leads him to see Indians as the equals of Englishmen. In a harsh, militaristic state, dominated by the English military presence, Cyril's character is an anomaly, suggesting that the world of education, international experience, and individual friendship is gentler and more equitable than the world of colonialism. England is an intensely proud, competitive country, but there are ways to be English and avoid racism. In general, Fielding is presented as Forster's stand-in: an Englishman with an open mind and good intentions, but who is nonetheless trapped within the evils of the colonial system and the cultural differences between himself and the Indians.

“I do so hate mysteries,” Adela announced.
“We English do.”
“I dislike them not because I’m English, but from my own personal point of view,” she corrected.
“I like mysteries but I rather dislike muddles,” said Mrs. Moore.
“A mystery is a muddle.”
“Oh, do you think so, Mr. Fielding?”
“A mystery is only a high-sounding term for a muddle. No advantage in stirring it up, in either case. Aziz and I know well that India’s a muddle.”

Related Characters: Cyril Fielding (speaker), Adela Quested (speaker), Mrs. Moore (speaker)
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

In this famous passage, the characters discuss the differences between mysteries and muddles as it applies to the Indian world. Mrs. Moore seems to think of India as a mystery--that is to say, a problem with a potential solution, or something chaotic and confusing but with an underlying meaning to it. Fielding and Aziz (and often Forster himself) see India as more of a "muddle"--something chaotic and confusing but without an underlying meaning. This idea of the nature of the unknown as either mystery or muddle is crucial to the book, both in its "ethnographic" aspect (how to define and describe a place as vast and diverse as India) and in its dealings with spirituality, psychology, and the human experience.

Part 1, Chapter 9 Quotes

Hamidullah had called in on his way to a worrying committee of notables, nationalist in tendency, where Hindus, Moslems, two Sikhs, two Parsis, a Jain, and a Native Christian tried to like one another more than came natural to them. As long as someone abused the English all went well, but nothing constructive had been achieved, and if the English were to leave India the committee would vanish also.

Related Characters: Hamidullah
Page Number: 114-115
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Aziz's uncle Hamidullah is on his way to a meeting of local Indian leaders. The meeting comprises an incredible breadth of races and backgrounds--there are Jains, Muslims, etc. All these different kinds of people are united together by one thing: the fact that they're not English. The non-English people of India, who--it's implied--may have fought among each other before the English arrived, have joined together in solidarity. Ironically, English presence in India is unifying, not divisive for the Indian people, because at least they have a common enemy in the English.

The passage has been criticized for its ahistorical view of Indian racial relations. English presence in India didn't unite the different religious and races together--rather, the English aimed to stir up racial differences, knowing full-well that doing so would make it easier for them to claim power. Forster's observation about India's relationship with England, then, might be intended affectionately, and true in some senses (it is easier for people to unite against a common enemy), but it also gets some history wrong.

Part 1, Chapter 11 Quotes

But they were friends, brothers. That part was settled, their compact had been subscribed by the photograph, they trusted one another, affection had triumphed for once in a way.

Related Characters: Dr. Aziz, Cyril Fielding
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, from the end of Part One of the novel, the characters make an important breakthrough. Much of the book is concerned with how individuals can become friends and achieve a sincere connection even across divides of culture and oppression. This idea is explored most potently in the two protagonists, Aziz and Fielding. At this point in the novel, it seems that an Englishman and an Indian can be true friends--after this meeting and exchange of trust and affection, Fielding and Aziz feel like "brothers." But as Forster comments rather ominously, this is an exception, not a rule, and even in this seemingly idyllic new friendship affection has only triumphed over division "for once" and only "in a way."

Part 2, Chapter 14 Quotes

How can the mind take hold of such a country? Generations of invaders have tried, but they remain in exile. The important towns they build are only retreats, their quarrels a malaise of men who cannot find their way home. India knows of their trouble. She knows of the whole world’s trouble, to its uttermost depth. She calls “Come” through her hundred mouths, through objects ridiculous and august. But come to what? She has never defined. She is not a promise, only an appeal.

Page Number: 150
Explanation and Analysis:

In this important passage, Forster characterizes the country of India as the home of the "sublime." Forster argues that it's impossible for any one person to "take in" India as a whole--it's just too vast and mysterious for that. The mind can try to understand India, but such attempts at understanding will always come short of the real thing. The concept of the sublime, a staple of philosophy and theology, hinges on the idea that there are certain objects and phenomena that are too vast to be comprehended--India, it would seem, is one of these phenomena. This also connects again to the idea of muddles and mysteries--India is vast and confusing, but is there a meaning behind this vastness, or is it all just a "muddle"? The fact that India offers only "an appeal" rather than a clear answer suggests that Forster doesn't have an answer either. It's exactly this kind of mystery that he presents throughout the book, both in his descriptions of India and colonialism and in his portraits of individual experience.

The echo in a Marabar cave is not like these, it is entirely devoid of distinction. Whatever is said, the same monotonous noise replies, and quivers up and down the walls until it is absorbed into the roof. “Boum” is the sound as far as the human alphabet can express it, or “bou-oum,” or “ou-boum” – utterly dull. Hope, politeness, the blowing of a nose, the squeal of a boot, all produce “boum.”

Related Symbols: The Marabar Caves
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

One of the most famous passages in the novel is the description of the Marabar Caves. The caves (based on a real place, but mostly invented by Forster), located near Chandrapore, are mysterious and sublime objects that confound all reasonable explanations. When people walk into the caves, their speech echoes until it's been reduced to the same sound, "boum." The caves, then, are a symbol for the meaningless of life--the void of meaning and understanding. If the English are analytical, intellectual people, then their attempts at analysis and intelligence fall short in the caves: they're reminded that some things in life cannot be understood by any means. By the same token, Forster implies that the people of India are somehow more in touch with the "void" of life--and yet even the Indians he portrays cannot explain or define the caves. Only Professor Godbole, with his intimate relationship with the "mystery" of pantheism and unity, comes close.

While Forster will go on to focus more on ideas of universal unity as related to Hinduism, the Marabar Caves offer the darker side of "unity." In Hinduism, unity is connected to divine love and acceptance, but in the Marabar unity is chaos, meaninglessness, and even malevolence. Good and bad, individuality and meaning, all are reduced to "boum." It is this foreboding "muddle" of existence that leads to the central acts of the book, which take place in the caves--Mrs. Moore's loss of faith, and Adela's confusing, unknowable experience of assault.

Part 2, Chapter 17 Quotes

He had not gone mad at the phrase “an English girl fresh from England,” he had not rallied to the banner of race. He was still after facts, though the herd had decided on emotion. Nothing enrages Anglo-India more than the lantern of reason if it is exhibited for one moment after its extinction is decreed. All over Chandrapore that day the Europeans were putting aside their normal personalities and sinking themselves in their community. Pity, wrath, heroism, filled them, but the power of putting two and two together was annihilated.

Related Characters: Cyril Fielding
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Adela has been supposedly attacked while in the Marabar Caves, and Aziz has been accused of assaulting her. The incident is a political and racial one: the Indians support Aziz, and the English people support Adela. The incident brings out the worst in some people--Turton, for example, who's previously been shown to be a racist, intolerant person, treats the incident as a chance to express some of his strong anti-Indian sentiments to Fielding. Turton is annoyed that Fielding refuses to play along with the rest of the English. Instead of allowing his nationalistic sympathies to run away with him, Fielding remains calm and factual with the case. The majority of Englishmen, however, ignore the facts--and temporarily lose their ability to even process facts--in their sudden rush of nationalistic, paternalistic, racist sentiment. 

Part 2, Chapter 22 Quotes

“Why can’t this be done and that be done in my way and they be done and I at peace? Why has anything to be done, I cannot see. Why all this marriage, marriage?... The human race would have become a single person centuries ago if marriage was any use. And all this rubbish about love, love in a church, love in a cave, as if there is the least difference, and I held up from my business over such trifles!”

Related Characters: Mrs. Moore (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Marabar Caves
Page Number: 224
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Moore has become irritable and disaffected after her experience in the Marabar Caves. She has seemingly lost her Christian faith, but also the belief that there is any real meaning to anything at all--life is a "muddle," not a mystery, and is a hellish sort of muddle at that.

Here Mrs. Moore suggests that love in a church (Ronny and Adela's future marriage) is no different from love in a cave (Adela's assault at the Marabar)--because no thing is really different from any other thing. This is the dark, terrifying side of Forster's theme of "universal unity." Unity can mean love and togetherness, but it can also mean chaos and fear, a state in which "civilized," consensual love is no different from a sexual assault in the darkness. While Mrs. Moore started the novel as an optimistic figure, an example of an Englishwoman who respected Indians and seemed to understand something crucial about India itself, her descent into apathy and disaffection shows just how difficult it is to remain hopeful and connected in the face of the realities of life.

Part 2, Chapter 24 Quotes

“This is no way to defend your case,” counselled the Magistrate.
“I am not defending a case, nor are you trying one. We are both of us slaves.”
“Mr. Mahmoud Ali, I have already warned you, and unless you sit down I shall exercise my authority.”
“Do so; this trial is a farce, I am going.” And he handed his papers to Amritrao and left, calling from the door histrionically yet with intense passion: “Aziz, Aziz – farewell for ever.” The tumult increased, the invocation of Mrs. Moore continued, and people who did not know what the syllables meant repeated them like a charm. They became Indianized into Esmiss Esmoor, they were taken up in the street outside.

Related Characters: Mahmoud Ali (speaker), Das (speaker)
Page Number: 249-250
Explanation and Analysis:

In the trial scene, the lawyer Mahmoud Ali dramatically defends Aziz from charges of sexual assault. Ali is Aziz's friend, and is supposed to be acting as his lawyer (along with the famous lawyer Amritrao), but here he seems more interested in making a spectacle of prosecuting English justice itself. He claims (pretty reasonably) that the English court system in India is so stacked against the Indians that any Indian put on trial is presumed guilty until proven innocent, instead of vice versa. Even though the judge of the case, Mr. Das, is an Indian, Ali says that Das too is a "slave," and neither of them really have any freedom within the colonial system. Ali is portrayed as over-dramatic and "histrionic," and he's possibly hurting Aziz's case with this (probably pre-planned) exit, but he also has a point. Impartial justice, like interpersonal connection across cultures, is almost impossible to achieve within the corrupt colonial system.

The other important part of this passage is the way that Mrs. Moore's name becomes a kind of charm or invocation for the crowds outside the courthouse. She has by now been sent away from India by Ronnie, and after the Marabar Caves visit she had grown apathetic and irritable, not bothering to defend Aziz or even visit him, but she is still elevated in Aziz's mind as his "greatest friend," and Mahmoud Ali's invocation of her name makes her become something larger than herself. She is not present, and probably wouldn't have even attended the trial if she was still in India, but her name and the idea of her--an Englishwoman sympathetic to and understanding of India--makes her into an almost religious figure in the heat of the moment. Her name is "Indianized" and chanted by crowds of people who have no idea who she is--they just know that this name is somehow sacred and friendly to them. Thus Mrs. Moore is again associated with Hinduism and spirituality, despite the depressing reality of her personal fate.

Part 2, Chapter 26 Quotes

For Miss Quested had not appealed to Hamidullah. If she had shown emotion in court, broke down, beat her breast, and invoked the name of God, she would have summoned forth his imagination and generosity – he had plenty of both. But while relieving the Oriental mind, she had chilled it, with the result that he could scarcely believe she was sincere, and indeed from his standpoint she was not. For her behaviour rested on cold justice and honesty; she had felt, while she recanted, no passion of love for those whom she had wronged… And the girl’s sacrifice – so creditable according to Western notions – was rightly rejected, because, although it came from her heart, it did not include her heart.

Related Characters: Adela Quested, Hamidullah
Page Number: 272
Explanation and Analysis:

Adela has told the court the truth: she hallucinated (she now believes) her sexual assault in the Marabar Caves. By suddenly admitting this in court, Adela clears Aziz of all charges. And yet the racial tensions in the courtroom persist long afterwards; the English believe that Adela was raped, and the Indians believe that she spitefully made everything up to hurt Aziz.

Hamidullah's response to Adela's testimony in court illustrates the attitude that the Indians have toward her, and reinforces Forster's larger "ethnographic" descriptions of the English and the Indians. Hamidullah was upset that Adela was so calm and cold when she admitted that she hadn't been telling the truth. If Adela had just been more tearful and passionate when she admitted her mistake, Hamidullah would have been more forgiving to her. Instead, Adela seemed cool and calm, suggesting to the Indians (who are supposedly more emotional and imaginative) that her "heart" wasn't really in her confession. She has done the thing that was technically right, but she hasn't done it out of love or compassion--and Forster seems to agree that the Indians, not the English, take the right interpretation of the trial for now, as shown by the authorial interjection of the word "rightly" before the description of how Hamidullah rejects Adela's confession.

Part 2, Chapter 29 Quotes

“Our letter is a failure for a simple reason which we had better face: you have no real affection for Aziz, or Indians generally.” She assented. “The first time I saw you, you were wanting to see India, not Indians, and it occurred to me: Ah, that won’t take us far. Indians know whether they are liked or not – they cannot be fooled here. Justice never satisfies them, and that is why the British Empire rests on sand.”

Related Characters: Cyril Fielding (speaker), Dr. Aziz, Adela Quested
Page Number: 288-289
Explanation and Analysis:

Adela feels terrible for what she's done to Aziz: by accusing him of assault, she risked his life. Adela tries to apologize to Aziz by writing a letter to him--and yet when she reads her own letter, she decides that it seems flat and insincere. Fielding explains why Adela's writing seems to insincere: it is. This reinforces the idea of the previous passage--that Adela is technically doing the right thing, but she isn't doing out of love or compassion. She doesn't genuinely love Aziz, or any other Indian for that matter--they remain strange and foreign to her, perhaps not totally human, even though in her mind she is trying to be just towards them.

Fielding shows himself to be a keen observer of Indian culture (at least according to Forster's similar observations): he recognizes that Indian people are more honest and open with each other--unlike the English, they don't go through the motions of pretending to be polite to one another; if they don't like each other, they say so. Fielding hints that there will always be a void between India and England because the English think that a formal code of right and wrong can replace the Indians' more instinctive, automatic modes of morality and communication. Neither worldview is inherently better or worse--they're just different--but the problem arises when one system of morality and humanity is externally forced upon the other, as is the case in the colonial system.

Perhaps life is a mystery, not a muddle; they could not tell. Perhaps the hundred Indias which fuss and squabble so tiresomely are one, and the universe they mirror is one.

Related Characters: Cyril Fielding, Adela Quested
Page Number: 293
Explanation and Analysis:

In this critical passage, Adela and Cyril discuss the mysteries of India and the universe, reiterating a conversation they had earlier. Both characters are atheists, and yet they want to believe that there is some kind of higher purpose in life--they can't be satisfied with the belief that all of life is random and chaotic (a muddle, rather than a mystery).

If life is just a muddle, then it has no higher purpose. If, however, it is a mystery, then it has a solution and therefore a meaning. Adela has been deeply disturbed by the events of the trial--they've reminded her how deep the divisions in English and Indian society go. Adela wants to believe that Indians and Englishmen have something in common; by the same token, she wants to believe that all people (and perhaps all living things) are united together beneath the muddle of their lives.

Part 2, Chapter 30 Quotes

The poem for Mr. Bhattacharya never got written, but it had an effect. It led him towards the vague and bulky figure of a motherland. He was without natural affection for the land of his birth, but the Marabar Hills drove him to it. Half closing his eyes he attempted to love India.

Related Characters: Dr. Aziz
Page Number: 298
Explanation and Analysis:

After the trial, Forster tells us, Indian Hindus and Muslims start getting along better in Chandrapore--united by a common enemy and a common experience. Mr. Das, the Hindu judge of Aziz's trial, has visited Aziz to ask for a prescription and for Aziz to contribute a poem to a predominantly Hindu magazine. This is a big deal, Forster explains, because usually such a thing would be unheard of, and Aziz usually just writes poems about Islam. When given this opportunity, Aziz contemplates writing a political poem, designed to unite together the Hindus and Muslims in India. While Aziz never writes such a poem, the prompt gets him thinking about the possibilities of a utopian India in which there are no English people in charge, and the internal divisions of India are united under the idea of a common "motherland."

In a strange way, Aziz's traumatic experience in the caves and during the trial inspires him to think about his country in more hopeful, loyal terms: Aziz wants to make sure that the court systems in English are never biased against innocent people, as they were in his situation. The irony, then, is that the Marabar Caves, seemingly symbols of randomness and meaninglessness, are actually "productively" empty--their horrifying lack of meaning ends up inspiring Aziz to seek meaning and unity within his own community and country.

Part 2, Chapter 32 Quotes

He had forgotten the beauty of form among idol temples and lumpy hills; indeed, without form, how can there be beauty? Form stammered here and there in a mosque, became rigid through nervousness even; but oh these Italian churches! …something more precious than mosaics and marbles was offered to him now: the harmony between the works of man and the earth that upholds them, the civilization that has escaped muddle, the spirit in a reasonable form, with flesh and blood subsisting.

Related Characters: Cyril Fielding
Page Number: 313-314
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Fielding travels back to Europe, where he marvels at the beauty of Venetian churches and other buildings. Fielding has been out of Europe for a long time, but when he returns he's immediately struck by the order and control of European society--an order that Indian society might lack. In Fielding's view, India lacks structure and "form" altogether.

What does Forster mean by form, exactly? Fielding is looking at architecture, but Forster is talking about the land itself as well, and about the vague structure of society. Part of Forster's description of India as "muddle" or "mystery" includes the assumption that India is inherently confusing, chaotic, and formless. The buildings lack symmetry and design, and even the land itself is somehow inhuman and "muddled" (one thinks of the elaborate descriptions of the meaningless, somehow horrifying Marabar Hills). In Europe, however, the geography is easier for the human mind to comprehend, and the architecture reflects that--it has meaning and design, and is comforting or inspiring to behold.

Forster here betrays a Eurocentric prejudice, something he usually tries to avoid. He isn't saying that Europeans are superior to Indians, but he does suggest that an entire aspect of geography, architecture, and society is more beautiful and "human" in Europe than in India. Structure is better than formlessness--harmony is better than discord. And Forster sees structure and harmony as more present in Europe than in India, whatever the sins or virtues of the people themselves.

Part 3, Chapter 33 Quotes

Thus Godbole, though she was not important to him, remembered an old woman he had met in Chandrapore days. Chance brought her into his mind while it was in this heated state, he did not select her, she happened to occur among the throng of soliciting images, a tiny splinter, and he impelled her by his spiritual force to that place where completeness can be found. Completeness, not reconstruction. His sense grew thinner, he remembered a wasp seen he forgot where, perhaps on a stone. He loved the wasp equally, he impelled it likewise, he was imitating God. And the stone where the wasp clung – could he… no, he could not, he had been wrong to attempt the stone…

Related Characters: Mrs. Moore, Professor Godbole
Related Symbols: Wasps
Page Number: 321
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, years after Aziz's trial, we see Professor Godbole as he contemplates the order of the universe in his Hindu theology. Godbole thinks of religion as a promise of unity and Heaven for all beings, from Mrs. Moore to the tiniest wasp. Godbole's vision of the universe could be considered utopian or universalist--every being, no matter what, has the opportunity to achieve glory, because every being has some intrinsic beauty and wonder. His sudden memory of Mrs. Moore at this moment also reinforces her as a kind spiritual being associated with Hinduism and universal unity--Godbole, the other character most associated with these ideas, shares a subconscious connection to Mrs. Moore, even though they barely met.

And yet there's a limit even to Godbole's vision of the world--he can't quite bring himself to embrace everything in his utopia. He is willing to accept a wasp--which appears again as a symbol for the "lowest" of the animal world--but not the stone that the wasp clings to. This is subtly compared to the earlier description of the openminded Christian Mr. Sorley, who was willing to accept monkeys into Heaven, but not wasps. (And the connection of the wasp to Mrs. Moore also recalls her introduction to the novel, in which she watched a wasp and tried to love it.)

One could thus argue that all systems of thought, in order to remain coherent, must exclude something, whether it's certain species, certain objects, certain ideologies, certain races, certain genders, etc. There is no total unity, even for a Hindi: an idea that will be important as we come to the novel's partially, but not totally, happy ending.

Part 3, Chapter 35 Quotes

“I do not want you, I do not want one of you in my private life, with my dying breath I say it. Yes, yes, I made a foolish blunder; despise me and feel cold. I thought you married my enemy. I never read your letter. Mahmoud Ali deceived me… I forgive Mahmoud Ali all things, because he loved me.” Then pausing, while the rain exploded like pistols, he said: “My heart is for my own people henceforward.”

Related Characters: Dr. Aziz (speaker), Cyril Fielding, Mahmoud Ali
Page Number: 339
Explanation and Analysis:

In this dramatic passage, Aziz reunites with his old friend Fielding. Years have passed, and the two have grown apart. Now, Aziz is angry with Fielding--Aziz long ago turned his back on English culture altogether. In this scene, Aziz learns that Fielding is not, as Aziz had assumed, married to Adela; Aziz's "friend" Mahmoud Ali had lied about the truth to Aziz in order to ensure that Aziz didn't reconcile with either Adela or Fielding.

In spite of his mistake, Aziz refuses to embrace Englishmen once again. Instead of being angry with Ali for lying to him for so long, Aziz insists that he forgives his friend and recognizes that Mahmoud Ali lied out of love more than anything else. Aziz has brushed with the English too many times before--from now on, he's going to stay with his own Indian people. Thus Forster again portrays the complications of humanism, psychology, and culture--Aziz's new sense of nationalism is vital, and in many ways healthy for him, but it also stands in the way of one of his most important friendships, and the central relationship of the novel: the bond between Aziz and Fielding.

Part 3, Chapter 36 Quotes

“Can you always tell whether a stranger is your friend?”
“Then you are an Oriental.” He unclasped as he spoke, with a little shudder. Those words – he had said them to Mrs. Moore in the mosque in the beginning of the cycle, from which, after so much suffering, he had got free. Never to be friends with the English! Mosque, caves, mosque, caves.

Related Characters: Dr. Aziz (speaker), Ralph Moore (speaker), Mrs. Moore
Related Symbols: The Marabar Caves
Page Number: 349
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Aziz encounters with Ralph Moore, the son of Mrs. Moore. Aziz points out that Ralph is an "Oriental" because he has a natural gift for telling which people are going to be his friends. Aziz then realizes that he said these exact words to Mrs. Moore, years ago--setting in motion a series of events that led up to his being accused of assault in the Marabar Caves. Aziz has the idea that he's been locked in an eternal cycle of friendship (with an English person), followed by disillusionment. He has tried to avoid this by staying away from the English altogether, but now his past has returned, and Aziz feels another inexplicable bond to another Moore. Thus the passage is suspenseful; will Aziz give into his natural friendship with Ralph, and again embrace the possibility of connecting with an Englishman, or will he back away, frightened that accepting Ralph (and Fielding) will only lead to another ugly incident?

“Yes, your mother was my best friend in all the world.” He was silent, puzzled by his own great gratitude. What did this eternal goodness of Mrs. Moore amount to? To nothing, if brought to the test of thought. She had not borne witness in his favour, nor visited him in the prison, yet she had stolen to the depth of his heart, and he always adored her.

Related Characters: Dr. Aziz (speaker), Mrs. Moore, Ralph Moore
Page Number: 350
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Aziz tells Ralph the truth about Mrs. Moore--he adored her, and continues to idealize in his mind. Aziz himself admits that Mrs. Moore never did anything concrete for Aziz, but she projected calmness, kindness, and understanding, which Aziz always responded to with joy and appreciation. It's not clear if Moore really deserves Aziz's appreciation--there are even some signs that she doesn't at all. (She left India instead of testifying at the trial; she never visited him in prison, etc.) And yet Aziz--an Eastern man (as Forster describes it) through and through--doesn't have much conscious control over who he likes and doesn't like. Instead of basing his feelings for Moore on concrete action, he feels an immediate, instinctual liking and empathy for her, which he is unable to reverse--and this feeling is arguably more powerful and lasting than other kinds of friendships (for example, Aziz's faded friendship with Fielding).

Part 3, Chapter 37 Quotes

“Clear out, all you Turtons and Burtons. We wanted to know you ten years back – now it’s too late. If we see you and sit on your committees it’s for political reasons, don’t you make any mistake.” His horse did rear. “Clear out, clear out, I say. Why are we put to so much suffering? We used to blame you, now we blame ourselves, we grow wiser. Until England is in difficulties we keep silent, but in the next European war – aha, aha! Then is our time.”

Related Characters: Dr. Aziz (speaker), Cyril Fielding, Mr. Turton, Mrs. Turton
Page Number: 360
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Aziz predicts that one day, India will rise and claim independence for itself. Much as Ireland rebelled against the U.K. during World War One, Aziz predicts that India will seize a moment of international crisis to stand up for its own independence; then, it will drive out all the Englishmen in the country and take control of its government.

Aziz's remarks (and thus Forster's as well) predict the future. In 1947, more than 20 years after A Passage to India's publication, India would rise up against the British Empire, using the crisis of World War II as an opportunity to fight for freedom. Aziz's remarks seem both selfless and self-absorbed--even though he's making a great speech about the future of his country, and rhetorically throwing off the yoke of colonialism, he's also clearly using politics as a way of lashing out against all the individual English people who have caused him pain and misery over the course of the novel. In doing so, he is again trying to reject Fielding and his offers of friendship.

“…yes, we shall drive every blasted Englishman into the sea, and then” – he rode against him furiously – “and then,” he concluded, half kissing him, “you and I shall be friends.”
“Why can’t we be friends now?” said the other, holding him affectionately. “It’s want I want. It’s what you want.”
But the horses didn’t want it – they swerved apart; the earth didn’t want it, sending up rocks through which riders must pass single file; the temples, the tank, the jail, the palace, the birds, the carrion, the Guest House… they didn’t want it, they said in their hundred voices: “No, not yet,” and the sky said: “No, not there.”

Related Characters: Dr. Aziz (speaker), Cyril Fielding (speaker)
Page Number: 362
Explanation and Analysis:

The novel ends on a cautiously optimistic note. Aziz cannot be true friends with Fielding in the present, despite the fact that they both like (and even love) each other, and have always had a strong bond. True friendship, Forster suggests, never exists in a vacuum, and the specter of colonialism (and cultural differences) still stands in the way of Aziz and Fielding's personal admiration for each other. Put another way, Aziz cannot be friends with Cyril until there's a more equitable relationship between England and India--until both men feel free, and one is not inherently connected to the oppressor, and the other to the oppressed. Only then can the two men get along without all the political baggage of their respective countries.

Forster believes in the possibility of humanistic cooperation between people of different nations, and indeed feels that individual friendship is crucial to overcoming racism, prejudice, and injustice in general (friendship is the most important kind of human connection in the novel, and is central to Forster's humanistic views). Yet Forster also tempers any kind of idealized optimism with an acceptance of the realities of politics and culture, tabling such personal cooperation until the day that two nations themselves can get along and exist as equals. Cyril and Aziz are representatives of their countries, proving that no man can be truly free of his culture and nation. The tragedy of the novel is that friendship has its limits: even when they're trying to be friendly and kind, people find themselves bound to and divided by their own societies--and even their geographies and natural surroundings. Even the horses, birds, and sky--not just the human elements of culture and society--divide Aziz and Fielding in this scene. One day, Englishmen and Indians will be able to get along, but not yet.

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