Problem of Relationships in A Passage to India

Also Read

      Forster's View on Personal Relationships: Forster valued human relationships and personal contacts very much. In his novel Howard End written in 1910, more than a decade before he wrote A Passage to India, Forster develops this theme with regard to the encounter of the Schlegels with the Wilcox family that brings about modifications due to personal relationships. The sheer humanity and pursuits of intellectual pleasure of the one have adequate influence on the domineering hard-headed business-like demeanor of the other. In that novel Forster remarks "Personal intercourse, and that alone, ever hints at personality beyond our daily vision." It was the sincere belief of Forster that personal relationships alone can bring salvation to humanity.

      Were Aziz and Fielding Ideal Friends? There is evidence to suspect that Cyril Fielding in A Passage to India was Forster himself in a veiled form and Dr. Aziz was the reflection of Syed Ross Masood a great friend of Forster's. The two in our story try to be friendly with each other. In portraying the development of their friendship the author has demonstrated his remarkable skill in characterization. He has endeavored to explore the possibility of human contact and personal relationships between two individuals of different languages, complexion and cultural upbringing. Although the failure of their experiment demonstrates the impossibility of a permanent intimacy between the Indians and the English with due adjustments and mutual understanding, yet in the earlier stages their intimacy is fairly deep and would have continued in the same strain except for certain misunderstandings due to the peculiarity of the political environment. (In fact after independence many ideal friendships between Indians and Englishmen have developed in an effective manner). Aziz appreciates the warm-heartedness's of Fielding with no inhibitions due to conventional strictures. They trust each other and their affection is evident as Aziz readily shows his wife's photograph to the English Principal. At the time of the accusation and trial of Aziz, Fielding stands in support of Aziz even risking the alienation of the sympathy of his own people, the other Englishmen. Thus in the early stage the friendship appears to have overcome the barriers of race, complexion, language and cultural environment.

      Reason for the Failure. As the story is developed by the author, certain incidents occur which vitiate the purity of their friendship and spoiled it Aziz believes in the rumor that Adela and Fielding had an illicit relationship and that the relationship was at the basis of the principal's endeavor to dissuade Aziz from demanding the compensation of twenty-thousand rupees from Miss Quested. Thus the mistrust of the Oriental which the Westerner could not comprehend paves the way to undermine a friendship that had a promoting start. The marriage of Fielding with Stella, the sister of Ronny, for whom Aziz had feelings of animosity was another cause of the failure. In the state of Mau Fielding and Aziz meet again when the latter emphatically affirms that a friendship between an Indian and an Englishman would be impossible as long as India remained a dependent nation.

      Aziz and Mrs. Moore. A casual meeting of Aziz and Ronny's mother Mrs. Moore does leave a lasting impression on both. The old lady begins to call the Indian her true friend after the second meeting in the caves. She did not believe him to be guilty of the charge of attempted molestation of Miss Quested. In her frustration, because of the persistence of the English people in proceeding with the trial, she requests that she may be sent back to England. Aziz has great respect for Mrs. Moore. The reference to Mrs. Moore at the trial and the reaction of the Indians to the extent of paying tribute to her in chorus with the cries of "Esmiss Esmoor" has much significance in this context. The unfortunate death of Mrs. Moore on her way back to England is a trick of fate in making this reverential relationship of Aziz and Mrs. Moore come to a futile end.

      Aziz versus Godbole. Aziz is the representative of a staunch Muslim and Godbole of a staunch Hindu, each venerating his religion even to the extent of being fanatically bigoted. But the common enemy in the English bureaucrat has blunted the edge of their bigotry very much. Godbole uses his ministerial influence to secure a decent job in the state of Mau where there is no Hindu-Muslim clash of interest. Apart from this Forster has not credited Aziz with an ideal personal relationship with anyone. His friendship with his Muslim brethren does not go beyond one of communal fraternization.

      Ronny and Adela. There could be ideal personal friendship between two Englishmen but the author has not cared to portray any such relationship. As for the love, between two persons of opposite sexes, there is no graphic narration at all in the book. Ronny was engaged to Adela and she visits India to facilitate the engagement to develop to a state of consummation in matrimony. But the events are such as to deal a death blow to it. Adela observes from close quarters Ronny's self complacency, censoriousness, lack of subtlety, haughtiness and other frailties. Ronny is annoyed at Adela's over zealousness to fraternize with the Indians. They thus have no mutual love and much less any sort of romantic attachment. Adela is a woman of practical sagacity and matter-of-fact shrewdness. According to her, the success of a marriage does not necessarily depend upon love as idealists view it A romantic love cannot take a couple beyond the few nights of the honeymoon. Other factors contribute to the success of marriages, and the various events that happen terminate the possibility of the marriage between Ronny and Adela.

      Fielding vis-a-vis Adela and Stella. Forster has depicted the relationship between Fielding and Adela, which started as one of guardianship, became an illicit relationship and marriage by turns in the hands of rumor-mongers and which ended being airy nothing when Fielding explains that it was Ronny's sister that he had married. The marriage between Fielding and Stella, despite the difference in ages, demands reasons which the author has not cared to offer. But its results become patent. One of them is the ultimate estrangement between Aziz and Fielding because Stella happens to be the sister of Ronny against whom Aziz had a indignation. Their marriage becomes a sacrament no doubt despite the mystical imaginative nature of Stella and the rationalistic down-to-earth outlook of the College Principal.

      Are All Personal Relationships Doomed? Evidently Forster had the pessimistic belief that intimate personal relationship of ideal nature is an impossibility. In the case of persons of different nationality and geographical or racial backgrounds that fact alone is enough to cause a cleavage. It may be due to communal discord in the case of the people of different religious beliefs. Individual idiosyncrasies may play havoc in the case of members of the same communal, racial, linguistic or religious nativity. But fortunately we are able to find a number of successful marriages and personal friendships among members of groups and classes of diverse and diverging characteristics, which give hope for humanity.

University Questions

"Human relationships are with him (Forster) a large theme - says Rose Macaulay. How far is this true of A Passage to India?
Comment on the problem of personal relationships as a theme of A Passage to India.
What views does Forster seem to have on the subject of personal relationships as presented in A Passage to India?

Previous Post Next Post