A Passage to India

by E. M. Forster

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Part III, Chapter XXXVI: Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1097

New Characters:
A young woman singer

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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.

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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.

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Latest answer posted March 21, 2016, 9:42 pm (UTC)

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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 Sweeper’s band is integral to the festival. When it appears, only its music will open the doors to the revelation of the Ark of the Lord.

For a while, Aziz is still gripped by his rancorous memories. Reading the letters from Heaslop and Miss Quested in the Guest House reminds him further of Chandrapore. Aziz is still occupied with trying to right his wrongs, which entails a reversal.

Inflamed by memories, he persecutes Ralph for a while. There are two reasons why his attitude and his manner change. One is Ralph’s own character; he is not the type of a bullying Englishman. Instead, he is strange, frail, and sensitive. He speaks to Aziz from emotional truth, not verbal truth, cutting through the other’s sneering attack by simply claiming, “Dr. Aziz, we have done you no harm.” Aziz is, of course, persecuting Ralph in his identity as a member of a group-the British in India-and ignoring him as an individual. He has just begun to perceive him as an individual when a chant from the festival permeates the Guest House.

It is a chant of reversal and of union: Krishnaradha, Radhakrishna, and it enters the house like “rumours of salvation.” Its effect is to remind Aziz of something beyond the caves. He repents of his earlier nastiness and speaks gently to Ralph. Aziz finds himself remembering Mrs. Moore, the mosque, and the beginning of the cycle. This time, Ralph reminds him that Mrs. Moore loved him. He now honors Ralph as Mrs. Moore’s son.

Once again, it is through the effects of spiritual rhythm and music that a character’s mood is altered and human differences resolved. The power of the mantra is well known in India and is practiced in order to produce spiritual transformation.

In the last scene, all the antagonisms and misunderstandings that have divided the cultures and the characters dissolve, and everything mingles together. The four outsiders collide with each other, and with the servitor’s tray. It is Stella who capsizes the two boats, rocking back and forth between Fielding and Aziz as she symbolically brings them together. Like her mother, she has collapsed the division between the Indians and the Anglo-Indians. Memories of the past float away along with the letters. As the villagers straggle back to their homes, they are still singing. Again the narrator repeats: “God si love.”

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Part III, Chapters XXXIV – XXXV: Summary and Analysis


Part III, Chapter XXXVII: Summary and Analysis