“Why talk about the English? Brrrr…! ” An Outlook on Aziz’s Attempts to “Bridge the Gap” A Passage To India by E. M. Forster is a rich, postcolonial novel delving into the possibility of sustaining a personal friendship between an English person and an “Indian” person. This topic is being discussed in the beginning of the novel at the home of Hamidullah, “… they were discussing as to whether or no(t) it is possible to be friends with an Englishman. Mahmoud Ali argued that it was not, Hamidullah disagreed, but with so many reservations… (Forster 7) Aziz, who the novel centers around, has the disposition to just shut them out and ignore them and all will be jolly.
Of course, later, we find Aziz does not shut them out and rather allows them to nest in his own self respect, and cause insecurity while trying to befriend them. I will argue that Aziz tries to initiate, and sustain lasting personal relationships with the English, and fails to do so with all three of his subjects, Mrs.
Moore, Ms. Quested, and Dr. Fielding; also I will attempt to reveal the novel’s latent, transgressive sexuality motivating Dr. Aziz’s advances towards Dr.
Fielding; and how the relationship attempted with Mrs. Moore was nothing more then the love of the idea of a “perfect” friendship. These theories once presented, will also reveal Forster’s own fatalistic attitude towards the age that he lived in and the pessimistic mood that permeates the narrative. Mrs. Moore and Ms. Quested are new to India, and haven’t been inundated with the imperalist attitudes of the Anglo Indians. When Mrs. Moore enters the mosque with her shoes off, Aziz is startled to find that an Englishwoman would observe his muslim customs and when she says that God is here, he is instantly intrigued.
Here is a woman with some empathy and sympathy. Azizs subsequent questioning of her begins to show similarities between them and he declares that she is an Oriental. Ms. Quested and Mrs. Moore are looking to see the “real India” and want to meet Indians socially to achieve this goal, which is nonsense because even if these women met 1000 Indians socially they would never capture the spirit of India by meeting people who live in the country. In fact Aziz addresses this issue with Mr. Das, “There is no such person in existence as the general Indian. ” (Forster 296) However, after Mrs.
Moore’s encounter with Aziz he is pegged by these two as someone who represents “real India” to them. Which of course, is ironic because Aziz attempts to entertain the ladies in a western fashion, losing himself in hospitality and neglecting his eastern self for the benefit of the English ladies. Aziz is a young, passionate muslim doctor who only keeps other muslims as his company. He is sensitive, and good looking and seems to genuinely want to explore the possiblities of having English friends after his only exposure being the haughty Anglo Indians.
However, I question his sincerity in attaining English friends in an attempt to break the bounds of colonial ideaologies and is merely motivated by the idea of attaining the unattainable. Aziz shows no desire to befriend Hindus, he is a classist himself in his attitudes towards them; “Slack Hindus– they had no idea of society; I know them very well because of a doctor at the hospital. Such a slack, unpunctual fellow! ” (Forster 72) His beliefs about Hindus coincide with how the English “other” Indians.
Aziz is certainly mimicing Western attitudes here and is characterized as being, “Touched by Western feeling… ” (Forster 57) Aziz’s “demonic othering” of Hindus is just him displacing the inadequacies he feels in not being in the ruling class he mimics, onto a “lower” class of people. We have three relationships that Aziz attempts to cultivate in order to “bridge the gap” between the English and Indian. Aziz certainly finds more success with his method of bridging the gap than Mr. Turton’s bridge party. However, Aziz like Mr. Turton does not achieve symbiosis between the two cultures.
Ms. Quested is the most generic and expected result of an English woman and an Indian man trying to be friends. She naturally brings criminal charges against him and ruins any chances of that relationship continuing. I see no point in elaborating on this subject because it is so cut and dry. This relationship did not last and was destined for failure from that “prig” of an Englishwoman. Mrs. Moore and Aziz’s relationship is a bit more tangled than the cut and dry experience with Ms. Quested. Aziz only has three meetings with Mrs. Moore.
Both characters have this great fondness for the other with no substance. They have some superficial similarities and Aziz proclaims she’s Oriental! It seems like both want an unconventional friendship so acutely they immediately gravitate towards this “love” that transcends race lines. When Fielding misses the train and Aziz realizes he’ll be alone with the two women his feelings from the mosque come rushing back for Mrs. Moore, “She was perfect as always, his dear Mrs. Moore. ” (Forster 145) But there is no real substance to their friendship only feelings and emotions.
Fielding accurately describes the real relationship between the two, to Aziz on the roof after the trial, ” You are so fantastic…. Miss Quested, you won’t treat her generously;… Miss Quested anyhow behaved decently this morning, whereas the old lady never did anything for you at all. ” (Forster 282) Fielding is absolutely correct, Mrs. Moore never actually does anything for Aziz except be a friendly, slightly senile old lady. In fact as the reader we know how Mrs. Moore’s attitude changes after hearing the echo and Aziz is oblivious to this.
The only reason that this relationship seems to work is because Mrs. Moore dies at the right time enabling Aziz to memoralize and glorify her. The dead have no faults or character flaws. Now moving onto the relationship of Fielding and Aziz, the novel’s flippancy about transgressive sexuality opens the door for alternative sexuality. On the surface, A Passage to India is purely heterosexual, almost asexual in it’s utter lack of overt carnal physicality. A close reading by the eagle eyed reader reveals something utterly different. No woman in the novel is physically portrayed as beautiful.
The Anglo Indian women are deficient of any morality or good will towards Indians or each other. Mrs. Moore and Ms. Quested are either old or angular and both devoid of any attraction, especially from Aziz. Aziz as a matter of fact is not shown to be attracted to any woman. His wife who passed away did not please him physically, “… he begat his first child in mere animality. ” (Forster 57) Aziz also is constantly characterized within the novel as being gay, flamboyant, gorgeous, beautiful, and sensitive. These are not characteristics usually attributed to men nor heterosexual men either.
I believe Forster (being a homosexual himself) may have cast Aziz to be the latent gay character in the novel. His relationship with Fielding certainly brings his sexuality into question. Fielding travels light. He has no kids and no wife. He’s educated and open to anyone regardless of race. Aziz has only heard flattering things about Fielding and is excited to meet him; mutually reciprocated by Fielding who has wanted to meet Aziz as well. They’re first meeting in Fieldings house when he is getting dressed is the beginning of this complicated relationship.
Aziz is certainly attracted to Dr. Fielding and even gives his collar stud to his dear Cyril. When Fielding misses the train Aziz screams, “Jump on, I must have you,” (Forster 144) then when Cyril shows up at the picnic later Aziz reacts passionately and emotionally, “Fielding! Oh, I have so wanted you! “(Forster 172) It’s also humorous to realize that Fielding has bragged about traveling light and before he leaves for England he realizes how much he cares for Aziz romantically, “Travelling light is less easy once affection is involved. ” (Forster 312)
These reactions are certainly not the only textual evidence to support the thesis that Aziz and Dr. Fielding have a homoerotic relationship; at the very least Aziz is certainly attracted to Fielding in a way that denotes more then just heterosexual friendhsip. The last scene of the novel is the final nail in the coffin for the question of Aziz’s sexual orientation. The two are riding horses (an activity fraught with the Freudian implication of sexual activity) “between jolly bushes and rocks… bright with butterflies… round white clouds in the sky…
The scene was as park-like as England, but did not cease being queer. ” (Forster 356) While in this picturesque almost surreal atmosphere Aziz and Fiedling realize this will be the last time that they are together and begin to have a playful romp on the horses, Aziz begins the final scene by riding up against Fielding. “… he rode against him furiously– “and then,” he concluded, half kissing him, “you and I shall be friends. ” “Why can’t we be friends now? ” said the other, holding him affectionately. “It’s what I want. It’s what you want. But the horses didn’t want it– they swerved apart; the earth didn’t want it, sending up rocks through which riders must pass single file; the temples, the tank, the jail, the palace… they didn’t want it, they said in their hundred voices, “No, not yet,” and the sky said, “No, not there. ” (Forster 362) This final scene holds two meanings. On the one hand, it is referring to the impossibility of an Englishman and an Indian maintaining a relationship. That according to the spirit of the times, colonizer and colonized will not bridge the gap, not yet, not there.
The second and more true meaning, is referring to the homosexual relationship that cannot be brought to fruition again, because the spirit of the times. I think in this last passage Forster is putting a bit of his own struggles into the novel. It was not easy being a gay man in the 1920’s and the social constraints that would’ve labeled him as a subaltern if he had been more open. This scene reveals that the “friendship” of Aziz and Fielding is not some intimate, affectionate heterosexual friendship, rather, a friendship rife with homosexual tension and affection.
This obviously cheapens Aziz’s attempts to befriend Fielding in any authentic, unbiased relationship. Aziz is merely pursuing the racy taboo of a romantic relationship with someone of a different culture, and race. Forster realized that during the writing of this novel, the overtly racist imperialist attitudes held by the general English person, made it improbable for relationships between colonizer and colonized to flourish. This attitude permeates the book, though it may not have been Forster’s attitude he could certainly relay the attitude of his contemporaries with dead eye accuracy.
He knew that these relationships were doomed from the minute he wrote the first word, but the beauty in trying and failing was too much for him to hold back I would say. Aziz can’t hold any of the relationships he tried to begin and is subsequently told no from mother nature about his more transgressive attempt at a relationship. Aziz, the Oriental is not left with much hope at the end of the novel of ever attaining a lasting relationship with the English. However, the little hope that is left in him will persevere to his children’s children and one day Indian and English will stand toe to toe on even ground.
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