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Character Analysis of Cyril Fielding from A Passage to India

Cyril Fielding’s character in E M Forster’s A Passage to India

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Cyril Fielding, in E. M. Forster’s ‘A Passage to India’ is a simple yet extraordinary character. He is a significant deviation from the common Britishers in the novel. Many authors and critics have found a reflection of Forster himself in his character. Fielding reflects the same outlook, is different from the other British and does not have that ugly British mindset. In his character, readers can see wisdom and simplicity. Popularly known as the schoolmaster, as many English characters too call him, Fielding is generally sympathetic towards the natives. He knows and understands them and their emotions. They are simple people whom the British are ruling by force.

He is introduced as a learnt man of reserved nature who has kindness and sympathy and is therefore respected in the Indian circles. Compared to the other British whom Forster calls a comic institution, he is a kind natured man who dislikes the way English people treat the Indians. His support for the natives even lands him in trouble  and still he is determined and unshaken.

He does not lose faith in himself, is willing to stand aloof from the herd he belongs to and with the people who need him. Cyril Fielding proves himself truly worthy of the readers’ respect. Forster’s rhetoric strikes at the root of the evil – the British mindset – from which all the trouble emanates. Like Forster, Fielding understands the pain of the natives and knows what the English are doing to India is unjustified. India is like a goldmine for the British and the poor natives are too simple to understand their strategy. The English are plundering their lands and cultural heritage.

Fielding is a strong character and it shows at the time of the trial of Dr Aziz. Ronny calls Fielding  a crank. A subaltern disrespects him at the club. Fielding feels disrespected but still retains his calm. Just to gain sympathy from those he considers animals, he cannot stand with evil. He continues to believe Aziz is innocent and at last his trust wins. Ronny does not want to see Aziz being set free because of the heavy blow he has felt on his ego. However, Fielding is a major barrier. He has trust in Aziz and his character. Forster has positioned the character of Fielding against all the other English characters. Despite the heavy attacks at the club on his dignity, he remains firm. Adela Quested is just a simple girl, too simple to understand what is inside Ronny and his attitude. She at last understands the truth by virtue of Fielding’s support and gets to know that  she had chosen to marry the wrong person – Ronny Heaslop. Heaslop epitomises the British brutality and the ugly and selfish British mindset. Fielding is cast opposite him as a noble and attractive character who loves to travel light. He likes to remain free from bias. The environment at the club grows unstable after the attack on Adela at the caves. Fielding has tried his best to remain patient and not show any attitude under heat. It is due to his light attitude that he has no hesitation or difficulty mixing with the natives. He is quite unlike the others who think of natives as inferiors and treat them as secondary beings.  Fielding represents a different class of British with a modern and better outlook which helps him accommodate even those who are unlike him. This segment of the British people is rational and empathetic towards others.

Forster’s novel is set in British ruled India where the natives despite being simple are sensitive and respectful. Fielding does not love their exploitation at the hands of the English.  While the other English are used to thinking and behaving like apes; however civilized they try to talk and appear on the outside, on the inside they are just as uncivilized as they think of the natives. Fielding is  a civilized fellow and his behavior and nature attract the natives. He likes Aziz and his friendly nature but feels pathetic to see Indians acting in a childish and irresponsible manner. At the time of Aziz’s trial, he is worried that Hamidullah and party can grow overexcited and end up spoiling their own affairs. However, Hamidullah understands he is the only hope that has kept them standing amid the storm. Fielding feels the same for Godbole who is a devout Hindu. When it comes to important matters, he acts in a manner to make Fielding feel as if Godbole is either irresponsible or does not have senses. The Brahmin gives Fielding and party a slip at the time of Aziz’s trial. Fielding is the only person standing with the natives at the time of Aziz’s trial. While it makes Hamidullah’s and Aziz’ faith grow stronger, it makes the British feel betrayed. It is the first time that  they show their frustration for his nature clearly. Inside the club when everyone was expecting the natives to grow restless and attack, Fielding knows that it is not the natives but the English who are the animals and villains. It is to a large extent due to his support that Hamidullah and party do not grow restless and execute the plan to rescue Aziz from the English hands with ease.

Fielding also holds himself a bit responsible for the tragedy at the Marabar caves.  Had he been able to catch the train and been at the Marabars with the others the tragedy would have been averted. However, even if he was not there, he is certain of Aziz’s innocence because he knows of Aziz’s true nature and that he is no fiend.  So, he leaves no stone unturned to save him. The English fear that Fielding will make them lose the case and hurt their prestige. Despite calling him a crank, Heaslop knows that the guy is trusted and respected by the natives and his being with them ensures their win to a large extent. Forster’s cultural Odyssey takes place in three important stages – Mosque, Caves and temples. Fielding maintains an extensive presence throughout the first two parts.   

After the case while Adela has lost her friends he cannot bear to see the girl being through more tragedy and therefore decides to help her. She stays at the college which gives birth to rumors about the two. Even Aziz grows affected by these rumors and starts believing them.  When the Muslim Doctor meets Fielding again he talks to him in a manner that  does not amuse the schoolmaster. Afterwards the two drift apart and while Fielding acts more stable, Aziz is the one who finds his doubt difficult to control. Fielding leaves for England but his friend is not there to see him off because he is having holidays in Mussoorie. He suspects that Fielding has stolen his twenty thousand that he would have earned had Adela paid the fine and now he is going to marry her secretly in England. Others around him like Mahmoud Ali and Hamidullah too add fuel to his doubts by adding that Fielding is not to be let deeper into the community. His support for Adela at last costs him the trust of the muslim community. However, it also proves him strong and stable and not volatile and fragile like his Indian friend Aziz.

Among those of his own kind, he hardly has any friends but then people like Fielding do not have many friends or need very few of them. Even Ronny who is an arch enemy feels thankful when Fielding helps Adela and persuades Aziz to not make her pay the large fine. In this way he has helped cut a larger drama short which would have cost Ronny more mental trouble. Adela lives with him for a few days before she leaves for England and by then he has helped her collect herself and get back to start a new life. She is thankful for his support and good natured help. It is why the rumors unsettle neither of the two who know the worse has passed. His friendship with Adela gives rise to rumors which even Aziz starts believing and that brings a drift taking Aziz and Cyril Fielding away from each other. However, even if Aziz is suspicious, he is a dear friend and the reunion of the two friends takes place at Mau.

Fielding wants to know about Aziz’s silence over his letters and gets to know of his suspicion when Aziz accidentally addresses Ralph Moore as Mr Quested. After Aziz gets to know that he has married Mrs Moore’s daughter Stella and not Miss Quested the fire between them is doused. Things improve however, circumstances do not allow the two to unite again. He teases Aziz over his nationalism and makes him anxious. However, by the end Fielding has proved that he has feelings for his friend and they are unchangeable. He suspects that Stella does not love her as much as he loves her and tells about it to only Aziz. At the end, he is serving the English government and has a nice family. The most cruel part is his separation from his dear Aziz who despite being a good friend has grown an Indian nationalist and cannot afford to be with Englishmen anymore. However, in a novel filled with unstable characters Cyril Fielding proves that he can stand the tumult that otherwise churns the others more easily. By the end he is not the hero he was at the time Aziz was jailed but more of a family man who knows his limitations. Towards the end we see him having grown more tolerant and his past heroics seem unbelievable in the new light. This change has been brought by his marriage with Stella. This relationship has flowered with their Mau visit. Stella is feeling good and Aziz has mended with Fielding and party and Adela. This reunion of the friends marks a turning point in each of the two’s lives. Each takes his own route from their knowing they are both bound by their social and personal limitations.

Written by Abhijeet Pratap

Abhijeet has been blogging on educational topics and business research since 2016. He graduated with a Hons. in English literature from BRABU and an MBA from the Asia-Pacific Institute of Management, New Delhi. He likes to blog and share his knowledge and research in business management, marketing, literature and other areas with his readers.

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