Cyril Fielding Quotes in A Passage to India
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.
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.”
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 withoutan 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.
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.
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 canbe 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."
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.”
“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.”
“…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.”
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.