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"Snobbish Attitude of English Women" – A Major Theme of "A Passage to India"
The friendship between the Indians and the English is the main theme of Forster’s novel. Under the pretext of every episode the reference to this particular theme can be easily identified. The writer highlights the nature of their relationship not only as being Indians and English but also as ruling and ruled classes.
The second chapter of the novel opens with a discussion on the same topic by a few educated Muslims who were discussing whether friendship between English and Indian is possible. Hameedullah, who has been in Cambridge, expresses his experience that friendship with English is possible only in England. He says, “I only contend that it is possible in England, it is impossible here.”
This he said after an acute observation of English people who think themselves to be superior creature on entering India whereas in England their conduct is vice versa. They also have a strong belief that the attitude of English ladies is more negative than the Englishmen. Hameedullah says, “They all become exactly the same not worse, not better. I give any English man two years. And I give any Englishwoman six months. All are exactly alike.” (Forster 35).
Callendar’s Summon for Dr. Aziz
Aziz, Hameedullah and Ali are about to have dinner, when Aziz is summoned by the civil surgeon, Major Callendar. Before responding to this call, Aziz says that Callendar has called him just to show his authority and he does not really need him. He says that “he has found out our dinner-hour, that’s all, and chooses to interrupt us every time, in order to show his power.” (Forster 39)
As Aziz approaches Callendar’s compound he gets down from tonga because the English rulers want the Indian to approach any English official on foot as it is the most suitable way for the servants. To exhibit their power and to observe the servility of the natives they forced to be humble and servile like a submissive and obedient subject.
As the matter of fact, when Aziz reaches to Mr. Calender’s place, he finds that Major Callendar has left for the club without leaving any message for him. This proves Dr Aziz’s suspicion that Mr. Callendar has called him at such odd time of dinner just to exhibit his power.
This particular incident shows the friendship can’t exist as far as English people consider the Indians an object to be governed and ruled. It’s so because the foundation of friendship is laid when there is equality on both the sides. It can not
The Chandrapore Club and the Indians
The Chandrapore club is the centre of leisure time’s activities, particularly for the English. The Indians have been banned to go there. The reason behind this restriction is that the natives are uncultured and primitive so they are not capable of being a member of the club. This is the reason that when Mrs. Moore invites Dr. Aziz to join the club, he simply replies that
“Indians are not allowed into the Chandrapore club even as guest.” (Forster 48)
The purpose of the bridge party was to bridge the gulf between the English and the natives. Forster (52) refers to it as “it was not the game, but a party to bridge the gulf between east and west.”
The name of the party has a symbolic background. It is the game of a card game called “bridge game”. In this game the trump card is the strongest card and one player decides which the trump card is and this player is the strongest player who commands over the others because all players are not equal in this game. In this sense, the English and the Indians are players in bridge party and the English has to decide the trump card because they are superior.
However, the Bridge Party does not narrow the gulf rather it exhibits it more strongly. At the Bridge Party, the Indian guests stand idly at one side of the tennis lawn while the English stand at the other and no interaction between the two takes place. At one time Mr.Turton tried to develop some degree of familiarity with his Indian guests but his wife did not permit him to do so and took him back to the other side where only the English were present. Of all the English people gathered in the party it was only Mr. Fielding who showed politeness with the Indians and intermingled with them in a friendly environment. So the common attitude of the Englishmen is not civilized towards natives nevertheless they have been invited by Englishmen.
There is segregation between the ruler and the ruled. The English ladies do not want to be with the Indians or to eat with them. Despite this attitude the English think that this party is extraordinary event to get familiar with the natives and old type of “Burrah Sahibs” could not practice such a humble act because this is considered against the honor of the English race. These are the feelings of doing something that compels the wife of the collector to say: “It’s enough to make the old type of Burra Sahib Turn in his grave. (Forster 65)”
This attitude is purely snobbish because the English ladies, who are here in the party, are ordinary British ladies. Who are compared and considered equal to the Indian ladies; which are cream of the society.
The gap between the two races strengthens further during the trial period drawing a clear cut line between English and Indians. Now every all the Indians are favouring Aziz and on the other hand the whole English community is with Adela. No one except Fielding is ready to find out what actually has happen in Marabar Caves. In such a situation it was a crime for an English man to side with Aziz; therefore Fielding was criticized bitterly for his favouring Aziz, an Indian. Even the Collector who never spoke otherwise, was so infuriated that he lost his head and said with utmost disgust: ‘you have sunk to the level of your associates; you are weak, weak, that is what is wrong with you”.
Fielding and Aziz
The only friendship that takes place in the novel, though for a short period of time, is between Fielding and Aziz. This starts when Aziz was invited to a tea party by Fielding at his home. There they talk with each other in a quite friendly atmosphere until Ronny came and destroyed the charm of the party. However, this acquaintance turned into friendship when Aziz showed Fielding a picture of his late wife. On Fielding’s question that the Indian ladies follow “purdah”, Aziz answers, “I should have told her you were my brother”. Fielding takes it as a great compliment and proves his friendship in the time of need. During the trial of Aziz, it was only Fielding who even being a British national assisted the lawyers of Aziz and faced the harsh condemnation by his own race.
The ultimate end of this friendship, however, was not a success. It ended at the end when mixed up with the elements of suspicion on part of Aziz. When Fielding requested his Indian friend to refrain from suing Adela, Aziz could not understand the real intension of Fielding and instead of it took it as if Fielding wanted to help Adela so as to get a chance to marry her. Even after two years when Fielding visited Aziz, the latter showed cold shoulder on his arrival assuming he had married Adela Quested. This distrust reveals the real story and we are now able to say that their belonging to different traces was the main reason for which they could not unite into the bond of friendship.
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