Personal Relationships in A Passage To India

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      E.M. Forster's novel A Passage to India does not deal with just one single theme. We have already discussed the basic theme of universal love and the theme of separateness. Now, one other theme that we shall handle is the problem of human relationships, especially that of personal relationships.

      The personal relationship issue centers around the knotty problem of Indians and Englishmen becoming friends. Mrs. Moore and Miss Adela came to India with the purpose of discovering the spirit of India. Both the ladies came in personal contact with some of the Indians. They were shocked to know that most of the British officials thought it below their dignity to talk to the Indians. Fielding was anxious to form friendships with the Indians. The other Britishers, keen to be friendly with the Indians, were Mrs. Moore and Miss Adela Quested. Fielding became the friend of Dr. Aziz and even went against his countrymen to defend Dr. Aziz.

      Personal relationships are determined by the environment and circumstances. Forster has taken great pains to discuss this problem. It forms an important aspect of this novel.

Mrs. Moore and Dr. Aziz

      The friendship between Mrs. Moore and Dr. Aziz is one of the most enduring relationships in the novel. Mrs. Moore had first met Aziz in a mosque where he had gone to drown his sorrow over the humiliation suffered at the hands of his boss, Major Callendar. She looked upon Aziz as representing India. Her warm behavior towards Dr. Aziz brought them very close to each other. Aziz realized that she was not the type of other British ladies. She had a soft corner for the Indians. She tried to bring the Indians and the Englishmen nearer to each other. It was on her insistence to meet the Indians that Mr. Turton arranged for the Bridge Party.

      The meeting at the mosque was the only encounter between Mrs. Moore and Aziz worth any significance. After this encounter, they meet twice-once at Fielding's tea-party and later on at the picnic to the caves.

      But these two meetings did not enhance their intimacy any further. However, the "secret understanding of the heart" which took place at the mosque was further developed at the subsequent meetings and their friendship was cemented.

      The visit to the caves, however, proved to be disastrous. Mrs. Moore went through a terrible experience. She became bitter and disillusioned. Her bitterness and disillusionment extended even to personal relationships. Dr. Aziz was accused of molesting and attempting to rape Miss Adela Quested at the caves. He was put on trial. Mrs. Moore, still in the grip of emptiness and negation, did not take the trouble to attend the trial or give evidence in favor of her friend. Yet her unseen presence had a mysterious effect on the trial proceedings; Adela changed her evidence and Aziz was released. The strong bond of their friendship could be seen in the influence she exercised over Dr. Aziz even after her death. He changed his mind and had forgone the compensation he had demanded of Adela when he was reminded that Mrs. Moore would not have approved of it. Thus, even after death some sort of a personal relationship was maintained between them.

Aziz and Fielding

      The relationship between Aziz and Fielding is as unique as that between Aziz and Mrs. Moore. In spite of the barriers of race and character, the two men succeeded in creating a rapport that stood Out as an evidence of the power of goodwill and kindness. Though the differences between the two men were great, they managed to become good friends, so much so that Fielding stood up in the defence of his friend against his own countrymen during the trial. Fielding was a member of the ruling British class and Aziz found it difficult to be friendly with these people. Yet both of them managed to get along with each other for the most part.

      Fielding and Aziz are a study in contrast. It is surprising how people of such contrasting temperaments managed to get along so well. It is true that there were ups and downs in their relationship but on the whole this relationship can be called successful. Fielding was a genial but reserved man. Though he was full of goodwill and consideration for other people, he still shielded away from a too intimate involvement with them. Aziz, on the other hand, was impulsive, unreserved and given to extremes of love and jealousy. These different traits in their personalities and the stress of circumstances did strain their friendship at times but not for long. The relationship forged in goodwill and kindness continued till the end, though Aziz declared that friendship between an Indian and a Britisher was not possible as long as the Britishers were the masters and the Indians were subjects.

Adela and Aziz

      Each one of the characters in the novel, every theme and every image in it contributes to the central theme of the novel. But no other character than Miss Adela Quested was the cause of the strains and problems imposed on Aziz-Fielding relationship. Aziz and Fielding were put to a severe test due to her. She had started on a good note. Her relation with Dr. Aziz was amicable at the beginning but this relationship was not able to stand the stress of the times. India had an adverse effect on her. Her experience at the Marabar Caves was traumatic and under the influence of this experience she acted in haste and spoiled her relationship with Aziz. She turned Dr. Aziz into her bitter foe and was perturbed when Aziz demanded a compensation from her for falsely implicating him in a charge of rape. She felt hurt as it was really because of her that Aziz was cleared of the charge. She had changed her evidence at the last moment and thus saved Aziz. But the fact remained that it was because of her that Aziz had to undergo all that trouble and so he was naturally angry with her. A beautiful relationship was thus broken due to misunderstanding and haste on the part of Miss Adela Quested.

Adela and Ronny

      The romantic plot of A Passage to India is not of the same type as in the conventional novels. Adela Quested and Ronny Heaslop Were engaged to marry but the marriage did not materialize and towards the end of the novel they parted from each other with hardly any heart-ache on either side. There was not much warmth of feeling in this relationship and it was guided more by the intellect than by the heart. Of course, the incident at the Marabar Caves and the development of events thereafter also contributed to the sundering of this relationship. However, we have a feeling that this relationship would not have lasted in any case.

Adela and Fielding

      Miss Adela Quested and the Principal, Mr. Fielding meet rather late in the novel. However, this relationship is of some importance-Both these characters were rationalists and their attitude towrards India was very much the same. Due to their identical views, they became so friendly that Aziz imagined them to be in love or worse still to merely sexually involved,

Mrs. Moore and Godbole

      Mrs. Moore and Prof. Godbole are the two mystics in the novel. The critics like Arnold Kettle have found something "misty" in their curious relationship. Both the characters are religious and have a mystical yearning towards a divine order, transcending the divisions of the earth. As E. K. Brown puts it, both are "not only alike but mysteriously alike." They only meet once at Fielding's tea party but a spiritual affinity is established between the two which is highlighted by the exalted talk they have about the wasp and the oneness of all God's creation. The relationship between these two characters help introduce a vision of inclusive order to the world of muddle and negation of the novel.

Personal Relations Marred by Skepticism

      Different meetings were arranged at different times to narrow the gulf between the two races - the English and the Indians. Fielding gave a tea-party to Miss Adela and Mrs. Moore. Godbole sang a religious song. Godhole placed himself in the position of a milkmaid. He prayed to Lord Krishna "come, come, come to me" God refused to come. Mrs. Moore asked him whether God would come in some other song. But God neglected to come throughout the novel. The meeting at the Marabar Caves proved to be the most disastrous. The Englishmen were disturbed; the Indians were upset; the dreaming and the loving hearts like those of Fielding arid Mrs. Moore were confused. As a matter of fact, the whole atmosphere of Chandrapore, the mini-India, was badly perturbed.

English Officials not Happy

      Indians thought that the Englishmen, being highly paid and enjoying almost all comforts of life were happy in India. In fact, they were not happy. They represented British imperialism that was based on violence, fraud, heartlessness and cruelty. Ronny Heaslope presents an official's point of view admirably. He says: "I am not a missionary. I am not a vague, and sentimental literary man. I am just a servant of the Government. We are not pleasant and do not intend to be pleasant". Every Englishman believed that Indians were criminal by nature and untrustworthy. In such a situation, personal relationship between the Indians and the Englishmen could not germinate.

Friendship between Equal

      Forster through the mouth of Aziz declared that there could be no friendship between the Indians and the Englishmen as both stood diametrically opposed. The Britishers were the masters of India and looked upon themselves as belonging to a superior race. All Indians in their eyes, belonged to an inferior race. Evidently, there could be no friendship between superiors and inferiors. Moreover, Englishmen had supposedly taken on their shoulders the burden of civilizing the natives who had an inferior civilization. All these notions were erecting a formidable wall between the two communities. Mrs. Moore tried her best to cross this wall of mutual suspicion and superiority complex. She crossed but could not break it. The hatred generated by the representatives of the British imperialism proved too stubborn to be subdued. Aziz thought of Englishmen as his bitterest of enemies and wanted to blast every one of them. The friendship between the Indians and the Englishmen would be possible only after the Britishers left India.

      So, this is the problem of personal relationships that is important but more important are the circumstances in which the individuals are placed. Individual human efforts are bound to fail in face of the inevitable chain of events over which human beings have no control.


Is it possible for the Indians to be friends with the Englishmen? Illustrate your answer from the text.
Write a critical note on personal relationships in A Passage to India.
In A Passage to India. E.M. Forster "has carried the riddle of human relations and society to its furthest boundary" (M.D. Zabel). Discuss and illustrate.
Write a note on personal relationships in A Passage to India.
Is it possible for the Indians to be friends with the Englishmen?

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