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The general atmosphere of darkness, doom, and despair that permeates this chapter foreshadows the negative turn that the plot will take. Both Adela and Mrs. Moore are filled with discomfort during the trip to the caves. Adela tries to occupy herself by mentally planning her upcoming marriage to Ronny; Mrs. Moore tries to involve her in small talk. It is clear that neither is excited about the visit to the caves. The heat and the atmosphere are simply too depressing. Aziz wishes that Fielding (the wise professor) or Godbole (the spiritual being) were on the trip to explain the significance and meaning of the caves.
Upon arriving at Marabar, things begin to brighten. Aziz has arranged for elephants to take the guests up the hills, which impresses the British ladies. Aziz also tries to entertain them with practical jokes and tales of his ancient family; he also serves them a great quantity of food, which reveals his careful, thoughtful preparations. Unfortunately, the Marabar Hills are a barren and ugly disappointment; they seem to represent the ancient mystery and diversity of India, which is unfathomable to Adela and Mrs. Moore.
As she waits for their return, Mrs. Moore has time to think. She reflects on Ronny, who now seems distant to her. She hates that he has developed all the traits of the arrogant, insolent British ruling class; she also worries that Adela is not really keen on marrying him. She thinks again about her experience in the cave. Suddenly the echo fills her head; soon her whole life seems reduced to a senseless echo. She is terrified over the fact that her life no longer seems to have meaning. Even her Christianity is not a comfort. She has lost her will to live.