Study Guide

A Passage to India Friendship

By E.M. Forster

Friendship

Part 1, Chapter 2
Dr. Aziz

"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." (1.2.121-3)

In this conversation, Aziz tells Mrs. Moore she is "Oriental" because she bases her friendships on intuition, rather than on knowledge: she instinctively picks her friends, rather than waiting to get to know them. Mrs. Moore's spontaneous affection makes her an "Oriental," according to Aziz.

Part 1, Chapter 6

[Aziz and the soldier] 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. (1.6.23)

This passage is ironic because later on in the novel, the same soldier will argue for a military crackdown on Indians in the days leading up to Aziz's trial.

Part 1, Chapter 7

The world, [Fielding] believed, is a globe of men who are trying to reach one another and can best do so by the help of good will plus culture and intelligence. (1.7.2)

This statement may very well express the novel's deepest hope: that the whole muddle of empire can be resolved through intelligent, informed dialogues conducted in good faith and with a mutual appreciation for each side's culture.

Part 1, Chapter 11
Dr. Aziz

"[…] Kindness, more kindness, and even after that more kindness […] We can't build up India except on what we feel. What is the use of all these reforms, and Conciliations Committees for Mohurram, and shall we cut the tazia short or shall we carry it another route, and Councils of Notables and official parties where the English sneer at our skins?" (1.11.17)

Here, Aziz draws an analogy between his friendship with Fielding and India's relationship with Britain. Just as Fielding approaches Aziz with "kindness" and with affection, Britain should also approach India through affection, rather than the racist baggage of a Turton. For Aziz, personal friendships, not political committees, provides the true model for international relationships.

Kindness, kindness, and more kindness – yes, that [Fielding] might supply, but was that really all that the queer nation needed? Did it not also demand an occasional intoxication of the blood? What had he done to deserve this outburst of confidence, and what hostage could he give in exchange? (1.11.19)

Fielding agrees with Aziz's comments in Quote #4, but with the puzzling caveat that "an occasional intoxication of the blood" is required. Fielding might be referring to an Orientalist stereotype here. The stereotype is that Indians are a sensual, emotional, people, but they're also passive – they never act on their emotions. This stereotype seems supported by the novel, which repeatedly shows Aziz's passive-aggressive treatment of Fielding. Instead of directly confronting Fielding about the rumors of his relationship with Adela, for example, Aziz indirectly needles Fielding with all kinds of insinuations. Similarly, Indians in general never directly act on their desire for national independence, which is why they will, according to Fielding, always remain a colony. Of course, historically, this all changes even at the time that Forster's novel is being written with Gandhi's activism, which showed that passive resistance could also be a stimulating force for change (see "Setting").

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. (1.11.74)

This quote emphasizes how Aziz and Fielding's friendship is sealed by Aziz's sharing of his wife's photograph: essentially, they're wife-swapping. The other problem with friendship as a model for nation-building is that if the model friendship is Aziz and Fielding's, then women seem to get excluded.

Part 2, Chapter 14

Like most Orientals, Aziz overrated hospitality, mistaking it for intimacy, and not seeing that it is tainted with the sense of possession. It was only when Mrs. Moore or Fielding was near him that he saw further, and knew that it is more blessed to receive than to give. These two had strange and beautiful effects on him – they were his friends, his for ever, and he theirs for ever; he loved them so much that giving and receiving became one. He loved them even better than the Hamidullahs because he had surmounted obstacles to meet them, and this stimulates a generous mind. (2.14.49)

Here, the novel takes issue with Aziz's attitude toward hospitality. Hospitality is not the same as friendship: it's more about showing off how cool he is ("Hey, check out this awesome elephant I picked up"). It also suggests that an obligation is being placed on his guests: "I give you a sweet elephant, you give me your esteem and respect." Hospitality is basically a way of buying friendship. True friendships like the ones he experiences with Mrs. Moore and Fielding require no obligations, no exchanges. Friendship in this sense goes beyond each individual's own little egotistical needs. (Aziz's friendship with Fielding sours when he suspects that Fielding may have had both an amorous and a financial motive in keeping him from suing Adela.) The novel seems to be playing with an Orientalist stereotype, though, when it claims that all Orientals have this problem with hospitality.

Part 3, Chapter 34
Dr. Aziz

"Never be angry with me. I am, as far as my limitations permit, your true friend; besides, it is my holy festival." Aziz always felt like a baby in that strange presence, a baby who unexpectedly receives a toy. (3.34.3)

Godbole is certainly a strange one, but one of Aziz's true friends. Nobody can ever seem to get mad or stay mad at Godbole, not Aziz, not even Fielding, who discovers that Godbole failed to maintain the school he was supposed to set up at Mau. Oddly, Godbole is a true friend precisely because he is a friend to everybody and nobody at the same time: he loves everybody and nobody (what has he ever done for anyone in the novel?).

Mrs. Moore

"Yes, your mother was my best friend in all the world." [Aziz] 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. (3.34.47)

Aziz also considers Mrs. Moore one of his true friends. Like Godbole, Mrs. Moore never gave him anything, nor put him under any obligations. But the fact that the only woman he considers his friend is dead brings up the pesky question of whether women are being excluded from the novel's depiction of ideal friendships.

Part 3, Chapter 35

But the horses didn't want it – they swerved apart; the earth didn't want it … they didn't want it, they said in their hundred voices, "No, not yet," and the sky said, "No, not there." (3.35.29)

For more on this passage, see "What's Up with the Ending?" For the purposes of our discussion of this theme, however, this quote is a critical one that shows how difficult it is for Aziz and Fielding to remain friends given their particular historical circumstances. Aziz an Indian, Fielding an Englishman in British India. The quote underscores again that true friends – such as other-worldly Godbole and dead Mrs. Moore for Aziz – seem to be possible only outside human time and space.

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