Mrs. Moore returns to the Chandrapore Club

Mrs. Moore returns to the Chandrapore Club, where she meets Adela Quested, her companion from England who may marry her son Ronny Heaslop; Adela wishes to see “the real India.” She complains that they have seen nothing of India, but rather a replica of England. After the play at the Club ends, the orchestra plays the anthem of the Army of Occupation, a reminder of every club member that he or she is a British in exile. Fielding, the schoolmaster of Government College, suggests that if they want to see India they should actually see Indians. Mrs. Callendar says that the kindest thing one can do to a native is to let him die. The Collector suggests that they have a Bridge Party (a party to bridge the gulf between east and west). When Mrs. Moore tells Ronny about her trip to the mosque, he scolds her for speaking to a Mohammedan and suspects the worst, but Mrs. Moore defends Dr. Aziz. Ronny worries that Aziz does not tolerate the English (the “brutal conqueror, the sun-dried bureaucrat” as he describes them). When she tells him that Aziz dislikes the Callendars, Ronny decides that he must pass that information on to them and tells her that Aziz abused them in order to impress her. When she tells Ronny that he never judged people in this way at home, Ronny rudely replies that India is not home. Finally Ronny agrees not to say anything to Major Callendar.

In this chapter, Forster introduces Adela Quested, Ronny Heaslop and Mr. Fielding, each of whom will play major roles throughout the novel. Adela Quested, as her name implies, is on a quest in India. She is motivated by a strong curiosity and a desire to seek what she perceives as the truth about India. Although she has a taste for learning about India and is certainly more receptive to interacting with Indians than her fellow Englishwomen in India, her passion seems somewhat academic; her curiosity about India is not primarily a curiosity about Indians themselves, but rather an intellectual concern with their culture. Forster allows the possibility that the now decent and accommodating Adela will assume the imperialist attitudes that mark the other Englishwomen, whose treatment of Indians is deplorable. Mrs. Callendar’s statement about the kindness of letting natives die is perhaps the most egregious example, but even in their more subtle conduct there is a perpetual undercurrent of colonialist superiority that marks most of the English characters. With the exception of Adela Quested and Mrs. Moore, the other female British characters are flat characters. Their sole purpose in the novel is symbolic: they show the racism and cultural superiority felt by the British in India. Ronny Heaslop exemplifies the colonial bureaucratic mindset that dominates the English elite. He suspects all Indians of wrongdoing and consistently scolds his mother for deeming Indians worthy of her company. However, Forster indicates that Ronny is not completely to blame for his own behavior. Mrs. Moore notes that he never behaved so rudely at home, implying that his position in India has made Ronny suspicious and mundanely malicious. This is a significant point: Forster condemns the colonial system in India for its effects on both the native population and the elite, rather than the individual English bureaucrat who soon adopts the prejudices that colonialism promotes.

Mr. Fielding, however, stands outside of the colonialist bureaucracy. He is primarily an educator whose interests are independent of the colonial political hierarchy. Fielding therefore can transgress social boundaries that the other characters must obey. He will serve as both the conduit between the English and the Indians in A Passage to India as well as the character who can offer the most realistic assessment of the colonial system within India, neither altogether condemning it as do the Indians nor wholeheartedly supporting it as the British bureaucracy do. The degree to which Fielding can move among the English and the Indians illustrates another one of Forster’s themes in A Passage to India: the meaning and responsibilities of belonging to a Ĺ’race.’ Fielding will demonstrate a fluid conception of race in which belonging to a particular culture does not necessitate supporting that race, yet the degree to which he can break from the English will be tested.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *