A Passage to India

A Passage to India

A Passage to India Part 2, Chapter 31 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Fielding is away at a conference for several days, and while he is gone Aziz muses on the rumor that Fielding and Adela were lovers. Eventually he believes it to be true, despite having no evidence. He doesn’t have a problem with extramarital affairs, but only with Adela, and with Fielding keeping secrets from him.
By now most of the major characters have left the novel’s sphere, and Forster focuses on Aziz’s friendship with Fielding as a kind of personal representation of England’s relationship with India. Aziz’s active imagination and impulsive nature start to lead him astray.
Themes
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Aziz meets Fielding at the station when he returns, and brings up the subject by mentioning that McBryde and Miss Derek had been caught having an affair. Aziz jokes that McBryde will surely blame the hot Indian climate for his infidelity to his wife. Fielding isn’t interested in discussing this scandal, however, and wants to talk about his conference.
Forster will call hypocrisy the Englishman’s special “demon,” and we see it evidenced here in McBryde’s affair with Miss Derek, especially after all his moralizing against Aziz during the trial and his ideas about Indians being “criminals at heart.” Given his affair, one might describe McBryde as a criminal of the heart.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
Aziz finally tells Fielding the rumor about him, saying that it might injure his reputation. Fielding laughs it off, but doesn’t offer the clear denial that Aziz is looking for. Aziz insists on talking about it more, and speaks as if the rumor were true. Fielding is startled that Aziz would believe the rumor, and he has an outburst of surprise and anger. Aziz feels wounded by his own mistake and by Fielding’s words, but Fielding apologizes as he drops him off. Aziz reluctantly agrees to come to dinner with Fielding that night, though he says he will bring Das along.
Even after Adela herself has left, she continues to divide the two friends. Even Fielding’s denial of the rumor doesn’t dispel Aziz’s suspicions—he has convinced himself that Fielding is growing distant and untrustworthy, and no amount of contrary evidence will convince him otherwise. It is telling of his new patriotism that Aziz now finds himself choosing the company of a Hindu Indian over Fielding.
Themes
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
Fielding is frustrated by the miscommunications between himself and Aziz. He sees Turton at the post office, and Turton orders Fielding to make an appearance at the English club at six that evening. Fielding stops by and accepts some awkward hospitality. Many of the officials and women have left or been replaced, but the new officials seem just like the old ones and the feeling in the club is unchanged. Fielding internally compares this to an “echo” of evil, which will keep going on until it all crashes down and British India fails.
In Chandrapore the Indians have grown closer after Aziz’s trial, but the English remain essentially unchanged. Most of the officials (like Ronny) have been reassigned elsewhere, but their replacements seem no different in personality and opinion. Forster uses Fielding to voice his predictions of the looming destruction of the British Raj, which did indeed happen in 1947, 23 years after the novel’s release.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
Get the entire A Passage to India LitChart as a printable PDF.
A passage to india.pdf.medium
Fielding then joins Aziz for dinner, and tells him that he is traveling to England soon on official business. Aziz suggests that they change the subject to poetry. Fielding says that finding a subject for Indian poets is difficult, but that he hopes that Aziz will be a religious poet. Even though Fielding is an atheist, he feels that there is something important in religion—or in Hinduism at least—that has not yet been expressed properly.
This is the one sincere-feeling moment in the growing miscommunications between the two friends. Fielding addresses the discomfort he felt with Adela in speaking about Mrs. Moore and the Marabar incident, and implies that such mystical subjects might be most effectively explored through poetry.
Themes
Friendship Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
Aziz then wants to change the subject back to Fielding’s trip to England, and he asks Fielding if he will visit Adela. Fielding says that he probably will, but he seems indifferent about it. Aziz suddenly says he has a headache and should go home early. Fielding apologizes again for his outburst that morning, but Aziz still feels depressed as he rides home. He soon discovers the source of his unhappiness: he can’t help suspecting that Fielding is going to England to marry Adela for the sake of her money.
Fielding has been rewarded by the lieutenant-general, and so he finds himself with more “official business” for the British. This ends up drawing him away from the Indians and back towards his own culture, to the detriment of his friendship with Aziz. The muddles and miscommunications continue, and nothing is properly stated between the two men.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
Aziz discusses the flies on the ceiling with his servant once more, and thinks more about his suspicion, which he doesn’t believe to be factually true, but which still affects him strongly. The narrator says that suspicion is the Easterner’s special “demon,” while the Westerner’s is hypocrisy. Aziz muses more on his suspicions, and soon finds himself believing that Fielding did indeed have an affair with Adela while she was at the college.
Fielding here clarifies another important cultural observation that we have seen evidenced throughout the novel. The Indian active imagination can go too far and lead to unnecessary suspicion, while the English preoccupation with convention and rationality can lead to hiding the messier aspects of their humanity.
Themes
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
The next day Aziz decides to travel with his children back to their home, so that when he returns to Chandrapore Fielding will have already left. Fielding is aware that something is wrong with their friendship, and he leaves a vague note for Aziz, which Aziz finds cold and displeasing. Soon Hamidullah and Mahmoud Ali are contributing to Aziz’s suspicions about Fielding and Adela, reminding him that they are “both members of a different race.” Aziz is haunted by the twenty thousand rupees he never received, and he finally convinces himself that a wedding between Fielding and Adela has already happened, as the natural result of that picnic at the Marabar Caves.
Aziz and his friends have all grown hardened against the English since the trial, and this leads them to distance themselves from Fielding as well. They ultimately come to the pessimistic conclusion that it is indeed impossible for an Englishman and an Indian to be friends—the same conclusion they reached at the novel’s beginning, but now with a personal application for Aziz. The evil muddle of the Marabar continues to expand and spread long after the incident itself.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
“Muddles” and Mysteries Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Division vs. Unity Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon