Hamidullah is waiting outside McBryde’s office, and Fielding runs into him as he exits. Fielding is emotional about the case, but Hamidullah remains calm and deferential, knowing that he must pander to the English in this situation. Fielding is disappointed with the Indians’ actions even as he decides that he has joined their side, and he realizes “the profundity of the gulf that divided him from them.”
Aziz’s friends rally to his defense, but even though they are in the right in this case, they lack the feelings of moral superiority and righteous anger that the English savor so much. They know that the English hold all the power over Aziz’s fate, and so they must focus on practicalities.
Hamidullah describes his plans for Aziz’s defense, which includes bringing in a famous anti-British lawyer named Amritrao. Fielding wants to avoid making the situation even more tense, and Hamidullah remarks that the English are good at dealing with crises. Fielding assures him that he is on “their” side, though he wishes he didn’t have to take sides at all. Fielding had hoped to “slink through India unlabelled,” and knows that he will now be seen as unpatriotic. He foresees that the situation will be a tragedy, but also a “muddle.”
Fielding is automatically on the Indian side, as the British don’t want anyone who won’t “toe the line.” Forster’s realistic and psychological style emphasizes the muddle of such events, where everyone misunderstands each other, and there is rarely a clear right or wrong. With Amritrao’s appearance the trial becomes more explicitly about something much larger than Aziz’s personal conduct.
Fielding returns to the college, where Professor Godbole approaches him about unrelated college matters. Finally Godbole brings up the Marabar Caves, but doesn’t mention Aziz. Fielding is confused, as Godbole refers to the expedition as “successful,” and asks if Godbole has heard the bad news. Godbole says that he has, but that he cannot pass judgment on how “successful” or not anything was. Godbole then changes the subject to a matter of naming a future school where he is going to teach.
Godbole is the only person who seems to remain disconnected and unconcerned with all the controversy. He avoids speaking of the incident specifically, or indeed of anything specifically. Godbole, like Mrs. Moore, has a sense of the meaninglessness of individual action, but instead of this knowledge making him irritable and depressed, it seems to give him peace.
Fielding is astounded, and says that he can think about nothing but Aziz at the moment. Godbole continues on his tangent until Fielding asks him outright whether he thinks Aziz is innocent or guilty. Godbole explains that this is a complicated question for him. According to his Hindu philosophy, an individual cannot commit any good or evil action – such actions exist, but they are committed by everyone or no one. Godbole admits that something evil happened at the Marabar Caves, but he states that that evil was committed equally by Aziz, the guide, Fielding, Godbole, and even Adela herself. Every action is an expression of the entire universe.
Godbole’s explanation is a kind of thesis statement for the idea that the chaos of existence is a mystery, not a muddle. There is no individual action, as all living things are essentially the same, but actions of good or evil still take place. This is essentially the same as the universally-reducing echo of the Marabar, but Godbole finds his “echo” comforting. His expansive and peaceful worldview supports a sense of unity through goodwill, not evil or chaos.
Fielding is frustrated by this answer, as he needs “solid ground” to stand on. He accuses Godbole of saying that good and evil are the same. Godbole explains further, saying that good and evil are different, but both are aspects of the same God, who is present in everything and everyone. Godbole then abruptly switches topics from the metaphysical to the mundane, asking Fielding trivial questions about the Marabar area. He goes on to tell an unrelated story, which culminates in someone finding a cow.
Fielding, like Aziz and Adela, is of a practical and almost narrow mindset, and so cannot comprehend the mystical worldviews of Professor Godbole and Mrs. Moore. Godbole’s philosophy is not representative of all of Hinduism, but is a philosophy Forster has selected and consolidated from many Hindu beliefs, as part of his theme of universal unity.
Fielding gains permission to see Aziz that afternoon, but when he visits Aziz is miserable and accuses Fielding of abandoning him. Fielding leaves and writes a letter to Adela, though he doesn’t expect it to reach her. He is still confused about the whole incident, as he thinks Adela to be sensible and “the last person in Chandrapore to wrongfully accuse an Indian.”
Everyone seems to react disappointingly from Fielding’s perspective, and the muddle continues to grow with no possibility of a clear explanation. The passionate Aziz is caught up in the strong emotions of the whole incident, and so is rendered incoherent by misery.