Adela stays bedridden at the McBrydes’ bungalow for several days. She has been sunburned and had hundreds of cactus spines embedded in her skin, which Miss Derek and Mrs. McBryde had to pick out. Adela stays passively in bed, still in shock. Her mood swings between hysteria and a logical recollection of events. She remembers that she entered one of the Marabar Caves and scratched the wall with her fingernail to start the echo. Then a shadowy figure appeared at the cave’s entrance, and she hit at him with her field glasses. He pulled her around the cave by the strap, until it broke and she escaped. The man never actually touched her.
Forster now shows us the events from Adela’s perspective. She is sheltered from the wider political turmoil surrounding her, but she personally suffers both physical and mental anguish. We immediately learn that Fielding was right—Adela did not accuse Aziz out of malice or trickery, but is genuinely confused about her recollection of the events in the cave. The Marabar’s echo seems to break down Adela’s logical mind as she attempts to remember what happened.
Sometimes Adela feels that she will get over the whole incident soon, but then she breaks down the next moment. She longs for Mrs. Moore to visit her, but learns that the old lady is ill as well. Without Mrs. Moore’s presence the Marabar Cave’s echo seems to multiply and strengthen in Adela’s mind, and she feels that evil is spreading from her and infecting other people.
Adela, like Fielding, feels that something evil has come out of the Marabar and is now spreading through the people of Chandrapore. We finally learn that Adela had a horrifying experience with the cave’s echo just as Mrs. Moore did. Even later she cannot rid herself of the all-reducing “boum.”
When Adela’s fever breaks and the cactus spines are all removed, Ronny fetches her from the McBrydes’. Adela learns that there was nearly a riot during the Mohurram festival, when a procession left its route and tried to enter the civil station, and a telephone line was cut. McBryde and Ronny then inform Adela of the details of the upcoming trial—Das, Ronny’s Indian assistant, will preside over her case. The men are horrified that an Indian could be the judge of an English woman, but they can do nothing about it.
Forster focuses on Adela for the lead-up to Aziz’s trial, so like her we only hear about the turmoil and rioting secondhand. Despite the wishes of the English at Chandrapore, the upper echelons of the British colonial system were sometimes more liberal at this point, and so Das is the judge of Aziz’s trial.
McBryde gives Adela a letter she received from Fielding, which he has already opened. McBryde explains that Fielding has joined Aziz’s side and was a “cad” to Ronny. He describes Fielding as an Englishman among savages, stirring up trouble and causing the Mohurram riot. Adela skims the letter, which suggests that she has made a mistake and says that “Dr. Aziz is innocent.”
We now see Fielding from the English perspective, and they do truly perceive him as a traitor who has taken up with “savages.” They seemingly cannot believe that the Indians would be so angry about an injustice, and so they see Fielding as the source of the trouble.
Adela says goodbye to Miss Derek and Mrs. McBryde, and Ronny drives her to his bungalow. Adela is excited to see Mrs. Moore, but Ronny warns Adela that she is “irritable.” When they enter Mrs. Moore is on the couch, and she doesn’t get up. Adela tries to take her hand, but Mrs. Moore pulls away. Ronny seems angry that his mother is being rude, but Mrs. Moore doesn’t really pay attention to Adela (instead discussing her own return to England) until Adela mentions the echo in the Marabar Caves.
The Marabar’s echo has not left Mrs. Moore either, and by now it has driven her nearly mad. Now that she has perceived that everything is undifferentiated and essentially meaningless, she feels irritated and apathetic about all “mundane” matters, even seemingly important things like guilt or innocence, marriage, and love.
Adela asks Mrs. Moore to explain the echo, but Mrs. Moore refuses to clarify. She predicts that Adela will never be free of it. She then declares that she just wants to be left alone – she will see Ronny and Adela get married, and then her other two children, and she will “retire then into a cave of my own.” Ronny reminds her of Adela’s trial, but Mrs. Moore says that she plans to leave India, and has no desire to testify at the trial.
Mrs. Moore’s friendship with Adela has fallen by the wayside now that the older woman sees no point in human relationships. If all people are essentially the same, then marriage or friendship are meaningless unions. Mrs. Moore wants to live in a “cave of her own,” to wallow in depression without being troubled by other people.
Ronny chides his mother, saying that she is being very unhelpful, but Mrs. Moore goes on to complain about her aged body and how sick she is of marriage. She says there is no difference between love in a church and love in a cave. Mrs. Moore leaves the room to go play “patience” (another name for the card game solitaire), and Adela starts to cry. Ronny apologizes for his mother’s behavior, but Adela is suddenly concerned with the possibility that she might be mistaken, and Aziz might be innocent.
Mrs. Moore, overwhelmed with this sense of negation and the void, basically says that Ronny and Adela’s marriage is the same thing as Adela’s assault in the cave—love in a church is no different from love in a cave, because nothing is really different from any other thing. Adela feels the power of the Marabar’s echo too, but for her it makes her question whether she is the victim or the victimizer.
Ronny assures her that she is just tired and upset, but Adela thinks she heard Mrs. Moore say “Doctor Aziz never did it” before she left the room. Ronny tells her that his mother said no such thing, and Adela is easily convinced. Ronny thinks that she is just remembering words from Fielding’s letter. Ronny checks to make sure no Indian servants have been eavesdropping, and he warns Adela not to wonder aloud about Aziz’s innocence anymore, as the Indians will use such information against the English.
Adela is so confused by the echo and her own dim memory of the incident that she is very suggestible. All her English peers, even Ronny, begin to pressure Adela into sticking to her story, even as she starts to waver and reconsider. The two sides—Indians and English—are at a kind of stalemate at this point, but willing to use anything to support their own narrative of events.
Mrs. Moore returns, sits down, and starts to play patience. Ronny asks her if she had mentioned Aziz’s name earlier. She says that she never said anything about him, but then she declares that “of course he is innocent.” Ronny gets frustrated and asks her for some evidence, but Mrs. Moore, still in a bad temper and feeling cynical and apathetic about everything, responds that she knows Aziz has good character and wouldn’t do such a thing.
Mrs. Moore intuitively knows that Aziz is innocent, but she does nothing to actively help him. In her apathy and depression even her friendship for Aziz is essentially broken down, as she sees no point in going to any trouble over something as meaningless as guilt or innocence.
Ronny calls his mother’s evidence “feeble,” but Adela suddenly wishes that she could call off the trial. She immediately takes back this suggestion, however, when she realizes how much trouble and confusion it would cause for everyone else. Mrs. Moore declares that “she has started the machinery; it will work to its end,” and Adela starts to cry. Ronny decides that his mother should leave India as soon as possible, and he starts planning her return journey.
This is similar to Adela’s wish to call off her marriage once she realized that she and Ronny didn’t love each other—she doesn’t do it because she doesn’t want to cause trouble for others (although she doesn’t consider the trouble for Aziz). But her encounter with Mrs. Moore verifies the power of the echo for her, and Adela will continue to waver in her recollections.