Despite its strong political overtones, A Passage to India is also a deep psychological portrayal of different individuals. As Forster describes his characters’ inner lives and their interactions with each other, the subject of friendship becomes very important, as it is shown as the most powerful connection between two individuals apart from romantic love. This subject relates to Forster’s humanistic philosophy—which says that friendship, interpersonal kindness, and respect can be the greatest forces for good in the world—but in the novel, friendship must always struggle with cultural divides and the imbalance in power enforced by the colonial system. The book begins and ends with the subject of friendship between an Englishman and an Indian, and in both cases it concludes that such a friendship is almost impossible. Forster shows all the obstacles—race, culture, class, religion, and language—that stand in the way of meaningful friendships between Indians and the English, no matter an individual’s best intentions. The English view the Indians as inferior, while the Indians (including Aziz) view the English as both cruel oppressors and foolish foreigners.
Towards the middle of the novel, however, Aziz’s growing friendships with both Mrs. Moore and Fielding seem to be an example of successful humanism, implying that if both parties can treat each other with respect, kindness, and openmindedness, then even Englishmen and Indians can be friends, and British colonialism could become a beneficial system. After the experience in the Marabar Caves, however, Mrs. Moore ends up going mad and dying, and Fielding and Aziz’s friendship starts to fall apart. After Aziz’s trial, each man ends up returning to his own cultural circle. Fielding feels sympathetic to Adela, while Aziz lets his suspicions harden into a hatred of all the English. In the novel’s final scene the two men become reconciled just as they are about to part forever. They embrace while riding together, but then their horses separate and they are divided by the landscape itself, which seems to say “not yet.” Such friendship might be possible once India is free, but not yet in the colonial system. Thus Forster doesn’t let go of his humanistic ideals, but he does show how such ideals can be hindered by social systems and cultural divides.
Friendship Quotes in A Passage to India
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.
“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.
“…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.”