Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 841
Hassan: Aziz’s servant
Syed Mohammed: a Muslim engineer
Mr. Haq: the Muslim police inspector
Rafi: Syed Mohammed’s nephew
Aziz is ill in bed. He fantasizes about dancing girls and sex. Hamidullah, Syed Mohammed, Mr. Haq, and Rafi come to visit and sympathize. Rafi first suggests that Aziz and Professor Godbole must have become ill after having tea with Fielding, then maintains that Professor Godbole has cholera. Syed Mohammed and the others speak scornfully of Hindus as a source of infection. Dr. Panna Lal arrives, accompanied by Ram Chand. He examines Aziz perfunctorily. The others inquire about Professor Godbole’s illness. The Hindus and Muslims begin to quarrel.
Fielding enters and there is friendly joking. The conversation turns to God; he says that he doesn’t believe in God. He is asked: “How is England justified in holding India?” and has no real answer, saying that he, personally, is in India because he needed a job. The Indians are unable to understand what he means. There is a discussion about whether or not India is spiritual.
The focus is on the larger picture, in which human beings play only a minor role. The heat and the approach of bad weather are emphasized. The sun is depicted as powerful but sinister, finally, only a creature.
Although the rest of Aziz’s visitors have left, no one has brought Fielding his horse. He stays, and Aziz tells him to unlock a drawer and look at the photograph of his late wife. Fielding is touched and flattered. Aziz says that India needs “kindness, kindness and more kindness.”
They talk of women, marriage, and children. Aziz suggests that Fielding marry Miss Quested and Fielding replies that she is engaged to Mr. Heaslop. Referring to the previous conversation with the others, Aziz warns Fielding to be careful what he says. Fielding gets up to go and asks Aziz to tell the servant to bring his horse. Aziz reveals that he has previously told the man not to bring it. Aziz is left considering Fielding as rash, but happy in the thought that they are friends.
This final section in Part I reiterates and develops themes that have previously appeared. Aziz’s reverie on sex continues to indicate the practicality and relative unsentimentality of his attitude toward it. We have already learned sexual feeling played little part in his love for his dead wife. Now, he muses about going off to Calcutta and visiting the nautch girls.
The division, misunderstanding, and mistrust between groups is heightened now. Hamidullah says that he can’t even trust his fellow Muslims Syed Mohammed and Haq; he calls Syed’s nephew Rafi, a malicious inventor of rumors, a “scorpion.” There is even greater division between Hindus and Muslims, who soon begin to trade personal insults. In the midst of these undercurrents, Fielding has remained candid and confiding; Aziz finds this unwise and warns him about spies and careless talk.
The possibility of brotherhood is heightened too, stretching across the gap between their respective groups, as Aziz invites Fielding to see the photo of his wife, saying: “All men are brothers.” This act seals their friendship, yet Fielding is aware of his own incapacity for intimacy, with Aziz or anyone else. He posits a conflict between intimacy and clarity.
Again, mood and emotion fluctuate as both characters are fully developed. Aziz ranges from petty tricks (arranging to keep Fielding’s horse away from him) to sublime poetry. For his part, Fielding is aware that his experiences seem drab beside the tragedy of the death of Aziz’s wife, and that their friendship is limited by his own stunted emotions. Fielding and Aziz also differ in that the Englishman is comparatively rootless, traveling light, while Aziz’s life is deeply rooted in family and society.
One of the interests that unites them is a love for poetry. When Aziz recites a poem by Ghalib, the discord between groups and individuals is stilled, transcended. The poem is compared to the song calling to Krishna, as a less explicit call that also voices “our loneliness, our isolation, our need for the Friend....” This Friend is, in Islamic terms, God the Beloved, the friend beyond all friends. However it is expressed, this spiritual aspiration is a basic human yearning. Yet once again the narrator’s rationality intervenes to remind us that poetry also falsifies, precisely because it lends divided Chandrapore a sense of unity. He also tells us that, for Aziz, literature may arouse either spiritual or sexual longings.
A short chapter depicts the overwhelming experience of the heat, in which all share equally. The heat and the sun become presences, almost characters. They are far stronger than human beings, and Forster again emphasizes the fact that human life is insignificant to most other life forms on earth, and that only a few people are deeply concerned with human political arrangements. The annual Anglo-Indian exodus to the hills to escape from the heat becomes “a retreat on the part of humanity.”
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