Character of Dr. Aziz in “A Passage to India” by E.M.Forster

Dr. Aziz is perhaps the best example of a “round” character, his warmth and vitality making the reader feel that he is a living person. Forster has been warmly praised by the critics for this excellent description of a member of a race differing from his own. It is a sensitive and sympathetic portrayal.

Aziz is a man of passion, whose emotional gamut ranges from great heights to the depths of despair. A Moslem, he feels strongly tied to his ancestors, the society in which he lives and the future in which his children will live. His imagination soars whenever he thinks of the great Mogul emperors; he is at the height of his power and is most entertaining to the English ladies when he speaks with great feeling and enthusiasm of Islam history.

Whatever Aziz knows, he knows with his heart or not at all. A well-educated man, Aziz’s profession is a job to him, exciting to him only when his skill as a surgeon is utilized. When he retires to Mau, he forgets most of his scientific training and becomes, in fact, chief medicine man to the court. He is well-read, has a good memory, and one of his favorite pastimes is quoting poetry to whoever would listen. The themes he prefers are the decay and the brevity of Love. He writes poetry, also, expressing either pathos or venom, though most of his life has no concern with either. When he decides to escape British India, his wish is to write poetry, to express what is deepest in his heart, and to be done forever with foreigners.

Aziz is impulsive. Sensing a sympathetic ear, he pours out his grievances to Mrs. Moore. He has a wild desire to make an enemy for the life of Dr.Lal, and he does it. He loves practical jokes, and when he is among people he trusts he has a fundamental gaiety. When his spirits are up he considers the English colony a comic institution, and he enjoys being misunderstood by them. He is skillful in the slighter impertinences. But he can be depressed, also, by net Great Britain has thrown over his country.

An athletic, strong man, Aziz is very sensitive to criticism and snubs. He is easily offended, finding meaning in every remark, even though it may not be the right one. Aziz detests ill-breeding, and he appreciates the courtesy, kindness, and sympathy. He takes hospitality seriously and does everything possible to make his guests happy. He is sincerely grateful for the privilege of showing courtesy to visitors from another country: he makes elaborate preparations for the picnic, but he is worried that his guests might suffer some discomfort.

His conventions are mainly social; he feels no harm is done society as long as society doesn’t find him out. Aziz feels no compulsion, to tell the truth. He lies to Dr. Lal to help the latter save face. His many inaccuracies concerning what happened with Adela at the caves are mainly to do her honor, as her question regarding his wives had been unworthy of a guest.

Cyril Fielding considers him a sexual snob. If a woman is not beautiful, Aziz treats her as he would a man and all is well. He pities Adela, for her angular body and freckles on her face are horrible defects in his eyes. He is enraged by an accusation from a woman who has no personal beauty. Love for his wife had come shortly after the birth of his first child, and when she died he mourned her deeply. At times he felt she had sent all beauty and joy of the world into Paradise, and he meditated suicide. But just thinking how unhappy he was would raise his spirits. He has a soul that can suffer but not stifle, and he leads a steady life beneath his mutability.

His first thoughts upon arrest are of his children and his name. He weeps and despairs because he knows an Englishwoman’s word will always outweigh his own. Aziz faints when he hears the verdict, and in the first painful moments of freedom, he feels affection. He wants to be surrounded by all those who love him. He is disappointed that Fielding and Mrs. Moore are not there; he loves them both deeply, the more so because he has surmounted obstacles to meet them. The victory brings him no pleasure for he has suffered too much. Imprisonment has hardened him and never again will his character fluctuates as widely.

Fielding tells him his emotions never seem in proportion to the object to which Aziz cries, “ls emotion a sack of potatoes, so much the pound, to be measured out?” He feels there is no point to any friendship if it comes down to give and take, or give and return. Lacking a sense of evidence, Aziz’s emotions decide his beliefs, and he assumes the rumor regarding Fielding and Adela to be true. He resents Fielding’s taking up with his enemy, also not being told about it. He grows suspicious of Fielding, decides he is going to England to marry Adela for her money, and convinces himself that the wedding has taken place.

He becomes strongly anti-British, and not liking politics, he decides not to fight the British but rather escape them. He resolves to see more of Hindus, to try to understand them, and never to look back. The experience at the Marabars Caves drives him to affection for his motherland; India must become a nation.

Religion, Islam, to him is an attitude toward life, both exquisite and durable. He is disinclined to pray, his belief in an afterlife is as vague as a Christian’s. He has no curiosity about the Hindu religious rites, has never discovered the meaning of the annual Hindu festival. But it is at the height of the Hindus’ religious fervor of which he is a spectator that Aziz is reconciled with Fielding and can make his peace with Adela. He is brought to this point by Ralph Moore, the son of the woman to whom he will always pay homage.

Also read: Motifs and symbols in Forster’s “A Passage to India”