Sir Gilbert, the lieutenant-governor of the province, comes to Chandrapore to survey the results of the Marabar Caves trial. He has been removed from personal dealings with Indians for a long time, and holds the “enlightened opinions” of more liberal Englishmen. He congratulates Fielding for his conduct from the start of the whole incident, and tells him that many of the officials have behaved badly and are stuck in the past. He makes sure that Fielding is re-invited to the English club, and then he leaves Chandrapore, satisfied that all is well.
Forster expands the setting beyond the narrow world of Chandrapore, and we see the wider scheme of British politics. Though Fielding was rejected by the officials in Chandrapore, he is the only one who comes out of the incident looking good. Sir Gilbert, meanwhile, from his lofty liberal perch far away from day to day events, sees a brief crisis that has been resolved, and has no idea of the complexity and muddle that remains.
The college stays closed for a while, and Fielding eats and sleeps at Hamidullah’s, so Adela continues to live at the college. Fielding comes to admire her for her humility and loyalty, and for accepting her painful, awkward position. He suggests that she write an apology to Aziz, and then dictates it for her. The letter doesn’t seem sincere, though. Fielding suggests a reason, and Adela admits that it is true: though she is fair and just, Adela has no true affection for Aziz or Indians, and Indians can always tell when emotion is insincere or lacking.
Fielding and Adela now begin to understand the cultural divide between themselves and the Indians, even as they grow closer as friends. Adela did the technically right thing, but she lacked the kindness and passion behind her action that would have won over the Indians. Fielding remains on the Indian “side,” but by growing closer to Adela he is distancing himself from Aziz.
Meanwhile many of the Indians grow aggressive in their victory, and even start inventing injustices and offences to get angry about. They have no real plan, however, as the true British power remains strong and untroubled by the trial. Fielding and Aziz argue more about plans for the future and about Aziz’s suit against Adela. Aziz wants Fielding to “give in to the East” and abandon the English altogether, while Fielding wants Aziz to let off from forcing Adela to pay. They are not bitter towards each other, but there is a definite racial or cultural barrier in their disagreement.
Forster’s critique now turns more strongly towards the Indians, as they react to their victory with aggression and petty complaints. They are still the main victims of the colonial system, but Forster does not spare them his pessimistic psychological portrayals. Aziz and Fielding come up against a seemingly insurmountable cultural divide between them, one that could only be overcome by Fielding “giving in to the East” entirely, which he is unable to do.
Fielding finally starts bringing up Mrs. Moore to shame Aziz about Adela. Aziz was very upset when he learned of Mrs. Moore’s death—he wept and ordered his children to weep as well—and her name has a powerful influence over him, even though he knows Fielding is trying to make him feel guilty. Almost at random Aziz finally relents and becomes convinced that he can honor Mrs. Moore by being merciful to her son’s fiancé. He asks Adela only for legal costs, but as he predicted, his generosity wins him no credit with the English. They will always believe him guilty no matter what.
Though he is less naïve and now anti-British, Aziz retains his passionate and impulsive nature even after his ordeal. Thus his mysterious love for Mrs. Moore ultimately convinces him to be merciful to Adela. Forster shows us the depressing lack of effect the incident had on the British community—they are unchanged by Adela’s actual testimony, but continue in their stereotypes and racial prejudice.
Ronny is to be transferred to another province, and he visits Adela to break off the engagement. He then tells Fielding, and says that he has arranged for a passage back to England for Adela as well. Fielding visits her, and she says that she should have broken off the engagement herself, but she was too dazed and stuck in inertia. She feels bad that she has caused so much harm in India, but she reassures Fielding that she won’t be so out of place when she gets back to England.
Ronny now essentially disappears from the book, having succumbed to the pressure of the colonial system and become a typical Anglo-Indian official. Adela still seems detached and relatively emotionless ever since the trial. In England she will be among people who accept her, as she no longer has a place among the Indians or the Anglo-Indians.
Adela says that she and Ronny never should have even considered marriage in the first place. Fielding agrees that the whole institution of marriage is “absurd,” and based only on flimsy social conventions and religious beliefs. Fielding and Adela discuss the difficulties of love as it relates to a practical life, and Fielding asks Adela about the Marabar Cave incident one last time. Adela indifferently says that it was probably the guide who attacked her.
Adela and Fielding’s final conversation finds the two once again skirting the edges of things beyond the reach of their rationalism. They share the views of marriage that Forster has repeated in the novel—that marriage is not the highest form of intimacy, but often distracting from other meaningful relationships, and based mostly in social tradition and religion.
Adela says that only Mrs. Moore knew what really happened, though she doesn’t know how. Adela suggests “telepathy,” but the word seems silly, and Adela retracts it. Both she and Fielding feel that they are wading out of their depth, close to something supernatural and profound that doesn’t fit into their rationalistic worldviews. They wonder if “life is a mystery, not a muddle” after all, and if the “hundred Indias” are actually one united whole, just as the universe itself might be united as one.
Again they feel uncomfortable using words that imply the supernatural. This passage is a crucial encapsulation of Forster’s themes of muddles, mysteries, and unity. As atheists, Fielding and Adela see no higher meaning behind the chaos of life, but they also feel dissatisfied with this worldview, especially in the light of recent events. Forster does not draw a conclusion, but only offers the possibility, like the God who never comes, of a mysterious unity for both India and life.
They do not discuss these questions, but instead say farewell and promise to write each other. They mention the tragedy of Mrs. Moore’s death again, but both decide not to dwell on death too much, as they still have more of life they want to live. Their souls seem to be in accord with each other, but there is still a sense of something metaphysical beyond them that leaves them dissatisfied.
Yet again Mrs. Moore’s name brings up something mysterious and supernatural that leaves Adela and Fielding feeling both dissatisfied and out of their depth. They part as friends, having bonded over their mutual respect for fairness and honesty.
Ten days later Adela leaves for England, following Mrs. Moore’s route. The servant Antony accompanies her and starts a rumor among the boat’s passengers that she was Fielding’s mistress. Adela starts to feel better as the ship approaches Europe, and befriends an American missionary on the ship. She decides to look up Ralph and Stella, Mrs. Moore’s other children, as soon as she arrives in England.
Adela leaves the country having failed to both see the “real India” and marry Ronny. Forster will again illustrate the tendency of an English person to feel more comfortable after leaving India—returning to a less strange and “muddled” landscape and architecture. Antony’s spiteful little rumor will contribute to the breakup of Aziz and Fielding’s friendship.