A Character Analysis of Dr. Aziz (Forster’s Better Muslim)
Dr. Aziz features as one of the central characters in Forster’s novel ‘A Passage to India’. Forster introduces him in the initial chapters. Aziz is an affable character; a friendly, sociable and educated Muslim who practices medicine at Chandrapore (a small town where most of the initial action in the novel takes place). A very good friend of Cyril Fielding, he is a devout Muslim and happy with his job at the local hospital. He does not find English very friendly but treats them as guests and remains content with his fate. Aziz does not feel great about the English or Major Callendar under whom he works. However, he has adjusted to his way of life and feels good abut it. The story changes with the arrival of Adela and Mrs. Moore. Marabar caves incident takes his life on a different course and turns him into a fervent Indian nationalist.
Aziz’s character is important for understanding the novel and Forster’s purpose. Forster has selected characters that represent various sides of the multifaceted Indian life and culture. Dr. Aziz is an oriental Muslim and represents the Muslim side of India. However, it gets easier to understand the native Hindu characters too using him as a point of reference. His wife is dead and has left behind three children – Ahmed, Karim, and Jamila. His first meeting with Mrs. Moore takes place at the Mosque. For Mrs. Moore, he represents the other side of the native life that has remained hidden from her eyes. She finds the environment at the club suffocating. The peace of the Mosque and Aziz’s company give her a pleasant break. Aziz is also interested in Islamic art and it comes to light in the later chapters that he is also a poet. When it comes to women, there is a major difference between him and Fielding. His views and attitude towards women are slack. He does not let it show before the world but when it comes to his dear friend Fielding, Aziz readily shares his thoughts. Fielding thinks it is moral corruption but in the case of Aziz, he does not mind it much. Cyril knows Aziz as an innocent and conscientious person.
Marabar caves mark an important turning point in Aziz’s life. The cave incident teaches him a lesson. The British were never his own folk and he must not trust them. He frequently thinks of his ancestors, Mughal emperors Babur and Alamgir and wishes that he lived in their times. His frustration is the same as the other Muslims of his time who hated the British rule. Whether Hindus or Muslims, both hated the British for their poor attitude and how they tried to play Gods. Marabar caves mark a sharp turn in his life and Aziz finds it difficult to control his emotions about the British. Adela accuses him of having molested her and a torturous sequence begins in Aziz’s life where he desperately tries to regain the balance that once existed in his life. Caught in a bitter situation, he cannot respect the English any more like he once did. While he did not respect any of them except Fielding, he had managed to coexist with them peacefully. He has lost trust in the British and their company is a burden after the cave incident. The drift had begun. Aziz starts thinking of India as his motherland and dreams of its freedom.
Forster’s novel explores the Indian culture during one of the darkest eras in its history; the time when India was a British colony. He shows how the Indian Muslims object to British oppression and how their idea of freedom differed from the Hindus. There are a few strange contradictions in Aziz’s nature. He is talkative and likable but stubborn and sometimes very childish. Forster calls India a muddle because several questions in his mind about India remained unanswered. India was like Chandrapore for him that rose here and fell there without any clear form or shape that could distinguish it. Whenever you think you have understood its depth and breadth, it starts looking like an illusion. To build a complete and specific picture of India, clearly distinguishable, is next to impossible. So, is Aziz; simple, responsible and yet childish. Despite the childishness, Fielding and Mrs. Moore like him. Forster uses these characters and the various settings in his work to draw a geographical and cultural map of India.
Towards the end too, when he has grown a fervent lover of his motherland, he has not forgotten his friendship with Fielding and respect for Mrs. Moore. “Esmiss Esmoor”, “Esmiss Esmoor” frequently rings in his ears and he recalls the noble lady and the moments he spent with her with profound respect and love. Mrs. Moore is an important person in his life and her memory remains in his mind. The old lady treats him like a son and after his arrest when he is feeling dejected and helpless, her name inspires hope and controls his restlessness. The Marabar case makes him lose trust completely and he doubts both Cyril and Adela. Later in the novel near its end, when he reunites with old friend Cyril Fielding, the reunion does not last long. Party is over very soon since the foul taste left behind by the Marabar incident is still fresh in Aziz’s mind.
After the Marabar case, Aziz decides that Adela will have to pay a large fine for his disrespect. Fielding does not want him to be so cruel to Adela and persuades him using the name of Mrs. Moore to let Adela go. Whenever the pressure has grown unbearable, Mrs. Moore’s name helps Aziz moderate it. His attitude frequently confuses Fielding for whenever he expects Aziz to be calm and contained, Aziz starts being restive. He and Fielding are like brothers who enjoyed each others’ company despite their differences. They are close but they differ and so life takes them apart. At last, both have shifted to their respective compartments and are happy with their own families and people.
The humiliation Aziz has suffered at the hands of the British is unforgettable and so is its pain. To overcome the pain, he decides to get away from the clamor of Chandrapore and goes to Mau. He marries again and is happily living with his wife and three children in Mau where Professor Godbole is a good friend and makes him feel welcome. He is an outsider in Mau but a welcome outsider or a guest. Godbole shows tolerance and he is close to the King. Aziz does not mind the Hindus much either and finds content in his new life. The return of Cyril Fielding, however, brings back a flood of emotions. Feeling utterly confused about how to receive him and not knowing that he had not married Adela, he keeps both loving and hating his old friend. He stumbles at Fielding at the Old fort of Mau where the truth comes to light. Cyril has married Stella but that does not affect Aziz much.
The humiliation at the hands of the British at Chandrapore still hurts him. The level of trust he once placed in Fielding has reduced. However, this is just a reflection of the turbulence Aziz has been through. The more he tries to get away from his dear friend, the more he finds himself being brought back by the next tide of emotions. To escape this fluctuation, the two, at last, decide to part ways. Cyril wants to find stability in his otherwise nomadic life and shares his feelings with Aziz about his marriage. Stella and Ralph are special because they are the offsprings of someone very special. However, Aziz cannot disrespect his own emotions or his motherland India. Aziz is an inseparable part of the Indian culture and he and his coming generations will fight to retain his place there. He can break away from friends but not from his motherland and people. Forster again proves that India is as dear to Muslims as to Hindus.
The kind of corruption and chaos British had brought to India had left the country of Gods in shambles. Aziz often finds it difficult to control his emotions. However, he cares for the people who care for him and respect him. His letter to Adela shows he can control his emotions. He writes to her that now onwards he will see her as Mrs. Moore did and respect her. Forster shows the special relationship between Aziz and India grows more special with time. Fielding cannot take his friend far from his people. Aziz represents the better side of Islam – educated, respected, modern, confident and fiery. Fielding has to leave his friend the way he is.
There are a few things respectable about Aziz like his love and reverence for his religion, admiration for art and poetry, respect for Mrs. Moore, trust in Fielding and his longing for his deceased wife. Mrs. Moore also offers a great angle to know and understand Aziz. He is like a son to her and she is a motherly, angelical figure for Aziz who is just a sweet poetry-loving child at heart. His curiosity to know English better takes him to the Marabars and the darkness in the caves echoes at Chandrapore for the coming days. The days of mental torture that followed after the cave incident changed him forever. His personality has undergone a major transformation. It is now serious, deep and agitated. He thought he could tame English by being friends with them but feels betrayed by Adela, Rony, and others in the group. Mrs. Moore helps him find some mental peace. She is like a light in his life and her thought makes Aziz feel less restive. There is a side of him that is visible only to Mrs. Moore and that meeting at the mosque remains unforgettable to him. He can argue with everyone but when it comes to Mrs. Moore he becomes an absolute angel. Aziz has got his rough and sharp edges but the overall effect he leaves behind is that of a marble that keeps moving because it is round. At the end, he has just one dream – to see India free and if not him, his coming generations would fight and take it away from the British.
Pratap, Abhijeet. “CHARACTER OF DR AZIZ IN FORSTER’S A PASSAGE TO INDIA.” Cheshnotes, Feb. 2018, cheshnotes.com/character-dr-aziz-forsters-passage-india/.
Pratap, A. (2018, February). CHARACTER OF DR AZIZ IN FORSTER’S A PASSAGE TO INDIA. In Cheshnotes. Retrieved from https://cheshnotes.com/character-dr-aziz-forsters-passage-india/