A Passage to India
E. M. Forster
Contributed by Pearl Vahle
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Chapters 9-11

Aziz is slightly ill and rests at home. He is planning how he can get to Calcutta for a few days to spend time with some women. Hamidullah, Syed Mohammed, the assistant engineer, Mr. Haq, the police inspector, and Rafi, the engineer’s young nephew, come to visit him. It transpires that Professor Godbole is also ill, and the men discuss whether he may be suffering from cholera. This provides an excuse for these Moslem men to attack Hinduism (Godbole is a Hindu, as is Dr. Panna Lal, who is treating him.) Aziz recites some poetry, which reminds the men of the beauty of India.

Dr. Panna Lal arrives, nervous because he is a Hindu and he regards the other men as fanatics. He determines that Aziz has a slight fever and advises him to remain in bed. Questioned by Aziz’s suspicious companions, Lal informs them that Godbole does not have cholera. As the men begin to quarrel, Fielding enters. The atmosphere eases because Fielding is good at getting along with everyone, although he shocks them by admitting that he is an atheist. The discussion turns to whether the English have a right to hold India. Fielding refuses to give the usual answer that England rules India for her own good. All he knows is that he likes being there. After a few more minutes of conversation, Aziz’s visitors depart.

Aziz calls Fielding back, and comments sardonically on the poor condition of his bungalow. He then shows Fielding a photograph of his dead wife. Fielding is flattered by the trust Aziz shows in him, but he also realizes that he has no confidences to share with Aziz. His life has held few secrets, but he does tell Aziz that he was once engaged to be married, but he does not regret remaining single, since he has no desire for children. He further explains his attitude to life, and after he leaves, Aziz is satisfied. He regards Fielding as a friend and a brother.


These chapters serve to further characterize India, bringing out the hostility between Hindus and Moslems. The poetry recited by Aziz gives only a temporary, and illusory, feeling that India is one, and not divided against itself. The poetry is also a reminder, as was the song of Professor Godbole in chapter 7, of the deep spirituality of India, although this is presented as an elusive spirituality, never fully manifesting itself.

Forster does not spare his characters. If the English, except for Fielding, are presented in an unflattering light, the Indians are hardly paragons of virtue, as their back-biting and petty intrigue in chapter 9 shows.

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