A Passage to India Part III, Chapter XXXVI: Summary and Analysis
by E. M. Forster

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Part III, Chapter XXXVI: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
A young woman singer

Stella Moore: Fielding’s wife, Mrs. Moore’s daughter

The palace continues to hum. Although the customary dramatic performance depicting the legend of Krishna will not take place, the festival has still created an atmosphere of love and peace. Since Mau is usually a site of suspicion and selfishness, Aziz finds the change difficult to comprehend.

Around evening, he remembers the ointment he had promised to send to the Guest House and decides to ride over to deliver it. On the way, he sees the procession forming and almost bumps into Professor Godbole. It turns out that Godbole has known for over a year that Fielding married Heaslop’s sister.

Godbole smiles and asks Aziz not to be angry with him for not informing him. The Sweeper’s band is arriving and when the doors are thrown open, the whole court can be seen inside; the Ark of the Lord stands in the fairway. Slightly bored, Aziz rides on out of town and stops by the Mau tank. In the center of it, looking like a small black blot, he can see the Guest House boat. Continuing on his way, he reaches the European Guest House, 200 feet above the water.

Aziz goes through the rooms and reads two letters lying on the piano. One is from Heaslop to Fielding, apologizing for having been unreasonable and referring to a “son and heir.” The second is from Miss Quested to Mrs. Fielding; friendly and sensible, it mentions “my debt which I will never repay in person.”

The State guns are fired and a rocket set off, signaling the release of the prisoner. The choir’s song penetrates the House. Aziz and Ralph move out onto the porch, where Aziz holds out his hand and speaks gently. Ralph replies that he can always tell whether a stranger is his friend.

Both acknowledge that the two nations cannot be friends. Ralph tells him that Mrs. Moore had spoken of him in her letters, and that she loved him. Aziz feels gratitude, but cannot account for it. He proposes to take Ralph out on the water and finds the place where the oars are hidden. There is a sudden flash of lightning. Ralph tells Aziz to row back and they see the image of a king under a canopy. Aziz tells Ralph that the Rajah is dead. What they have seen is an image of the Rajah’s dead father.

Ralph asks Aziz to row nearer, and Aziz obeys. The chant of Radhakrishna changes, and Aziz believes he hears the “syllables of salvation” that had been chanted during his trial at Chandrapore. He rows nearer, until the palanquin of Krishna appears, surrounded by singers. Godbole sees the boat and waves at them. An image of Krishna’s birthplace is about to be thrown into the water.

Suddenly, English voices cry out; the two boats collide. The servitor’s tray, part of the final act of the festival, strikes the English. The boats capsize; everything, including the servitor’s tray and the two letters, float away.

In this chapter, the narrator informs us that “Religion is a living force in Hindu life.” The entire chapter is an illustration of this statement. The all-pervading atmosphere of the festival affects even those, like Aziz, who do not believe in Krishna. Instead of indulging in intrigue, the rival claimants to the throne are careful not to disturb the atmosphere of peace and love. Preparations for the torchlight procession are beginning. Gods are mounting the floats.

Religious divisions are indicated and then bridged during the festival. In the midst of it, Aziz almost bumps into Godbole, which would have contaminated the Brahmin. Godbole apologizes for not telling Aziz about Fielding’s wife, which he has known for some time. He declares that he is, within his limitations, Aziz’s true friend, and reminds Aziz that this is his holy festival. Aziz smiles at him, another indication of the way in which the festival calms all resentments.

A prime characteristic of Hinduism is that it favors inclusion over exclusion. The caste system was strict and exclusive at that time, yet the...

(The entire section is 1,097 words.)