Aziz did not go to the Bridge Party, but instead he dealt with several surgical cases. It was the anniversary of his wife’s death; they married before they had met and he did not love her at first, but that changed after the birth of their first child. He feels that he will never get over the death of his first wife. Dr. Panna Lal returns from the Bridge Party to see Aziz and offers a paltry excuse for why he did not attend. Aziz worries that he offended the Collector by absenting himself from the party. When Aziz returns home he finds an invitation from Mr. Fielding to tea, which revives his spirits.
Forster uses this chapter to give more biographical information about Dr. Azizthat illustrates the differences between western European and Indian culture. This chapter serves as a reminder that the differences between east and west are a constant preoccupation for Dr. Aziz, who adopts some western traditions while eschewing others. Forster also demonstrates Aziz’s concern that he has offended his English superiors by not attending the Bridge Party, showing once again how Aziz wishes to please the ruling Anglo-Indians. Forster portrays Dr. Aziz as a person who is prone to bouts of depression and anxiety. His mood can shift suddenly and violently from morose to elated based on external circumstances. One detail that Forster mentions in this chapter will be significant later: the photograph of Dr. Aziz’s wife will be an important object in the novel in terms of the plot at two different points in the story.
Mr. Fielding arrived in India late in his life, when he had already passed forty, and was by that time a hard-bitten, good-tempered fellow with a great enthusiasm for education. He has no racial feelings, because he had matured in a different atmosphere where the herd instinct did not flourish. The wives of the English officers dislike Fielding for his liberal racial views, and Fielding discovers that it is possible to keep company with both Indians and Englishmen, but to keep company with English women he must drop Indians. Aziz arrives at Fielding’s house for tea as Fielding is dressing after a bath; since Fielding cannot see him, Aziz makes Fielding guess what he looks like. Aziz offers Fielding his collar stud, for he has lost his. When Fielding asks why people wear collars at all, Aziz responds that he wears them to pass the Police, who take little notice of Indians in English dress. Fielding tells Aziz that they will meet with Mrs. Moore and Adela, as well as Professor Narayan Godbole, the Deccani Brahman. Mrs. Moore tells Mr. Fielding thatMrs. Bhattacharya was to send a carriage for her this morning, but did not, and worries that she offended her. Fielding, Aziz, Mrs. Moore and Adela discuss mysteries. Mrs. Moore claims she likes mysteries but hates muddles, but Mr. Fielding claims that a mystery is a muddle, and that India itself is a muddle. Godbole arrives, a polite and enigmatic yet eloquent man, elderly and wizened. His whole appearance suggests harmony, as if he has reconciled the products of East and West, mental as well as physical. They discuss how one can get mangoes in England now, and Fielding remarks that India can be made in England just as England is now made in India. They discuss the Marabar Caves, and Fielding takes Mrs. Moore to see the college. Ronny arrives, annoyed to see Adela with Aziz and Godbole. Ronny tells Fielding that he doesn’t like to see an English girl left smoking with two Indians, but he reminds him that Adela made the decision herself.
Mr. Fielding is in many respects the key character in A Passage to India, for it is he who can bridge the gap between the English and the Indians. He is the one character that has some sense of social autonomy, yet this autonomy comes at a price; he is in some ways an outsider among the English, particularly among the women. Forster again reminds the reader that it is the Englishwomen who are most likely to shun him for his association with Indians. This also reinforces the theme that belonging to a racial category in India comes at a price. For Fielding to have the ability to move among the races in India, he must sacrifice certain privileges that are normally afforded the English. Fielding does not symbolize any particular race or social group in India, thus will come to stand for different ideas of liberalism and justice. Forster examines both the state of India and of Anglo-Indian relations in this chapter. For all of the characters, India is in some sense a muddle, for it uneasily combines eastern and western traditions without fully integrating them. As Aziz shows with his mention of police harassment of Indians in traditional dress, the combination of eastern and western can be imposed on India unwillingly rather than chosen independently. When they discuss how India can be made in England as England has been made in India, Fielding’s remark reveals the true intention of the colonial regime: they intend to replicate England on Indian soil, unaware that all traditions will not transfer. However, Professor Godbole demonstrates that an integration of eastern and western society may occur successfully. Forster claims that he has reconciled the products of East and West, yet this conciliation of the two traditions is primarily an internal phenomena. Professor Godbole symbolizes the harmony that may occur in India.