Chapter XXXI from E M Forster’s A Passage to India (part 2 Caves) : Summary and Analysis
This chapter is mostly about Aziz’s and Fielding’s friendly relationship which has started drawing towards and end. Soon after rumours start doing the round about Fielding and Adela, Aziz grows suspicious of him. These things lead to a drift between the two and when Fielding is leaving for England Aziz is away in Mussoorie. He has started believing that Cyril will marry Adela and he is the one who made him lose twenty thousand rupees. Forster delves deeper into the mind of the oriental Muslim to see how susceptible it is to misunderstandings and suspicions. Perhaps the oriental Muslim was confusing himself to a level called pathetic. However, it was also a sign that the trust between natives and English had thinned too much. Fielding himself was worried that pushing further could result in doom. Having joined the club again he had seen that the English way had not changed and had little time left before it caused its own downfall which happened before mid twentieth century.
Aziz’s thought processes were not guided by evidence but by emotions. This had led to a kind of coolness between him and his friend. They were winners but were not to be crowned for their win. Fielding being away at a conference, Aziz started believing the rumour about him and Adela in a few days. While he did not have any trouble with his friends amusing themselves, especially in case of Cyril who was a middle aged man, he could not love his friend associating with a woman he still considered his enemy. What is a friendship where one does not believe another? He had surrendered confidential facts to Fielding but the later never surrendered anything in return.
Aziz met Fielding at the Railway station upon his return and tried to tax him with outward emotions. A scandal had happened involving McBryde and Miss Derek. This explained Miss Derek’s attachment to Chandrapore. She had been caught with McBryde in a closed room and his wife was ready for a divorce. Aziz thought he had discovered an important piece of news for Fielding. However, McBryde was going to blame it on the Indian climate. Secretly, Aziz must have felt like a winner for Mcbryde’s involvement in the case. Fielding too had returned content from the conference but was not interested in this scandal. Aziz started about the other things including the spread of cholera at Chandrapore and the new civil surgeon who was not much different from the previous. At last nothing valuable had been achieved from his suffering. Then he came to the gossip involving him and Adela and how they had grown too intimate and were accused of impropriety. Fielding’s reply was somewhat serious but he showed little contempt. He just said people were used to saying things. Aziz mentioned he had tried everything he could to silence the rumours. Fielding was not worried because Adela had at last gotten away safe.
Aziz replied it was not the ones who had gotten out but the ones who had stayed. He used words like anxiety and dismay which showed he was exaggerating his emotions and made Fielding stop him. Fielding thought he was always exaggerated in his show of emotions but for Aziz it was proportionate with what he felt. He thought Fielding minds things related with Adela as he could see on his face but would not accept. However, Fielding again came back to travelling light and that excited Aziz. This travelling light was only earning him enemies from all around and nothing else. He himself grew uneasy whenever Fielding used the expression. When Fielding asked what enemies Aziz could not think of anyone because he had just himself in his mind. Fielding had made him feel like a fool. He was suspecting everyone and grew angry at Fielding. He must have known whom to trust and whom to not because Aziz had given him an elaborate list of such people in the city. His sais was new and how could one know he was not a spy. Aziz thought every third servant was a spy and that made Fielding ask what the matter was. It was something else in Aziz’s mind making him appear so cross. Aziz cam to the point without knowing the kind of havoc it would wreak. Fielding and Adela were amusing each other. He called Fielding a naughty boy. It made Fielding lose his temper. He disliked being called it and exclaimed at Aziz that he was a ‘little rotter’.
Aziz could feel his temper so he instantly asked for pardon and said it must have been the oriental imagination. However, Fielding’s temper had hurt him deeply. Fielding tried to clarify saying the girl was still engaged to Ronny when she stayed. Aziz understood but since Fielding had not contradicted his remarks he had taken them to be true. He must have been misled. At last he asked Fielding to drop him at the hospital. Fielding asked if Aziz was offended but he was not. Each of the two regretted their mistakes. Such confusions still interrupted their friendship and Fielding had started thinking over his relationship with Adela. Aziz could understand Fielding’s temper and said Mohammed Latif was going to be punished seriously for inventing such mischiefs. However, Fielding felt no need for it. Such gossips were going to die like the ones about Mrs Moore did. They could discuss such things at dinner. Aziz suddenly recalled having promised Das for dinner.
Fielding asked him to bring Das with him. Aziz tried to protest but Fielding remained adamant. After they reached the hospital where Fielding alone went around the maidan. He was annoyed with himself but hoped things will get alright at the dinner. When at the post office, he saw the collector. Turton asked him to show up at the club. Fielding thought he could be relieved for the evening since he had planned the dinner so he asked Turton if he could be excused this time. It was the Lieutenant Governor and therefore there was no question of denying and so he had to show up at six. He could carry on with his plans after that. Fielding was forced to attend the function where he had drinks and some show of hospitality took place. He talked to many people including Mrs Blakiston, McBryde, the new civil surgeon and the new city magistrate. However, things had not changed much at the club. The air was still the same.
While he was returning he went past the Mosque thinking. Everything was being built upon sand and the more modern the country got the worse was going to be the crash. Everything echoed now and the echo was damaging. This echo thing had been on the verge of his mind but he could not connect it with anything else. He started thinking of things he could connect it with including universe and the mosque but he could not find an answer. Even thinking of God rang no bells. It just seemed a religious pun but no religious truth. Aziz looked tired and out of spirit when he met Fielding again and Fielding thought it would be good to keep all the misunderstandings for the later part of the evening. About the club he said that he did not want to go but was forced to visit under compulsion. He would never have to again since he was soon to leave for England.
Aziz quietly said that he might end in England and then changed the topic. The two awkwardly ate there dinner and then sat in the Mogul garden house. Fielding was going for a small period and Aziz asked about his nature of business in England and if it would let him have any spare time. He said yes he will have enough time to see his friends. Then they changed the topic and started talking of poetry. Aziz had grown emotional while talking of poetry. His maternal grandfather was a poet and had fought in a mutiny against the English. He too might equal his grandfather if there was a mutiny. He tried to turn the conversation towards official things but Fielding was still interested in poetry and starts looking for a topic. For Aziz the talk had grown interesting and he was thinking that the talk would lead you somewhere. Fielding was reminded of the time when they had first met and Aziz had used poetry as an incantation. He said Aziz was right that poetry must touch life. However, Aziz was still in low spirit and said he was just a kid when he met him first. Then he used to believe everyone and everyone was a friend – friend in Persian means God.
However, he was not interested in being a religious poet either. The talk again returned to religion and Fielding suggested he could find a topic that was not true but was not sung yet. He suggested he could write something that the Hindus have found but they are unable to sing. Aziz tried to turn off the topic because it was leading nowhere. He had started thinking of his wife. Had she been alive she could be with him in some native state. Feeling reminded of Miss Quested, he asked Fielding if he would find time to visit her. Fielding was unsure but said if he could find time, he might see her in Hampstead. Aziz did not know Hampstead and Fielding told him it was a suburb in London – artistic and thoughtful. Aziz tried to talk of Adela further but he was having a headache and feared he was going to have cholera so he decided to return. He planned to bike away but had been brought in a carriage. Ramchand thought he had been taking advantage of Fielding because he was seen too often in the carriage. Fielding thought it was time he should ask Aziz for his forgiveness over the remark he had made that morning. Aziz was not serious about being called little rotter. He thought such light remarks worked in friendship. However, as he drove off his headache became sever and he was depressed. He got on bed after tipping the sais heavily and his servant Hassan massaged him. Inside his room the flies had settled into a colony on the ceiling and the almeirah and were unwilling to go away. His mind was on Fielding and now he suspected he would marry Adela for her money and was going to England for that purpose. Hassan started talking of the flies and other things like a snake the kitchen boy had killed.
The suspicion had bene growing in Aziz’s mind since the dilkusha. It is the oriental nature. It can believe and disbelieve at the same time. As you known of hypocrisy in the West so is the problem of suspicion among the orientals. He was not trying to forget Latif’s remark anymore and thought Adela must have become Fielding’s mistress when she stopped at the college. Suspicion grew to the extent that he started thinking it was Fielding inside the cave. The oriental mind- when it starts suspecting it surpasses all limits. On a side his mind said impossible, on another it felt more bound to believe that Fielding was treacherous as was Shivaji when he killed Afzal Khan. Aziz felt shaken and asked Hassan to leave. It was true Fielding was deep and to see inside him was difficult but this turn of events pointed that Aziz’s thinking could be shallow as his talk.
However, Fielding on the other hand was still optimistic. He could not think some evil could result from their friendship. However, confusion and doubt had set in and so in order to clarify he decided to write a letter. The letter was written in modern style and difficult for Aziz to comprehend. Fielding expressed his doubt over Aziz’s views regarding him in case of women and that he had crossed the period when he could excite himself with notions of female company. He was someone very stern in this regard and Aziz needed to digest this fact. The later did not change anything. Aziz was interested in confidences but Fielding never had anything confidential to share and it is why he appeared more distant to Aziz. He felt repelled and gave a cold reply that he could not return from Mussoorie and had to be content with his small holidays. Now that his plans of vacationing in kashmir had been cancelled, he would be away in some native state by the time Fielding returned. The distance between the two grew as the others like Mahmoud Ali and Hamidullah had added to his suspicions. Fielding was not like before the case and they thought he spoke with less frankness since. No-one really knew what was going on in his mind. even if he was to be considered a friend, you could not let him in farther. Aziz’s mind was still focussed on the twenty thousand rupees that had escaped him by virtue of Fielding. He was now even sure that his dear Cyril was going to marry Adela and before much time had passed he had persuaded himself to think that the marriage had been ceremonized. He had kept himself in the dark for too long.