Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1051
Lady Mellanby: wife of the lieutenant-governor of the province
Adela is recuperating in the McBryde’s bungalow, with Miss Derek and Mrs. McBryde hovering over her, picking cactus spines from her flesh. Whenever she tells the story of the Marabar Caves, she begins to cry. Adela is plagued by a recurring echo that makes her feel that Evil has gotten loose and is entering other people’s lives.
When Adela’s temperature has fallen to normal, Heaslop takes her away. He tells her that there had nearly been a riot on the last day of Mohurram; the procession had tried to enter the civil station. When she learns that she will have to appear in court to identify Aziz and be cross-examined by an Indian lawyer, she asks to have Mrs. Moore with her.
Like other Anglo-Indians, McBryde and Heaslop are indignant that an Indian judge, even Ronny Heaslop’s assistant, will preside over a case involving an Englishwoman. McBryde gives Adela a letter from Fielding. The superintendent tells her of Fielding’s behavior at the Club and that he is now a mainstay of the defense. According to the superintendent, he is also responsible for the Mohurram troubles. Miss Quested reads the words, “Aziz is innocent.” Her only response is to worry about Fielding’s treatment of Heaslop.
As they near Mrs. Moore’s bungalow, Ronny warns her not to expect too much; his mother is old and irritable, he says. Mrs. Moore greets her indifferently. She seems resentful and disinclined to help. Adela speaks of the recurring echo. Mrs. Moore says she has nothing to say. She refuses to testify. Each time Adela extends her hand, Mrs. Moore withdraws hers. She seems to focus entirely on her own concerns.
Suddenly Adela repeats, “Aziz, Aziz.” She tells Heaslop Aziz is innocent, that she has made a mistake. Ronny attempts to distract her, telling her that Nureddin had stolen the Nawab’s car during the riots and driven Aziz into a ditch. As a result, Aziz had been returned to prison. He calls Major Callendar to come examine Adela.
Returning, he finds that Adela is convinced she heard Mrs. Moore say that Aziz is good. Heaslop denies this, saying she is confusing this with Fielding’s letter. Adela agrees. Ronny asks her not to speak of Aziz’s innocence again. When questioned, Mrs. Moore replies that she had not said Aziz’s name, but adds, “Of course he is innocent.”
She calls herself a bad old woman, but still refuses to help them to wrongly convict Aziz. Confused, Adela vacillates. She asks if the case can be withdrawn, then says that she knows this is impossible. Heaslop concurs, saying the machinery has already started. Mrs. Moore says ominously, “She has started the machinery; it will work to its end.” Heaslop’s silent response is to plan to send his mother away from India as soon as possible.
Lady Mellanby, the lieutenant-governor’s wife, offers to share her reserved cabin with Mrs. Moore. Mrs. Moore leaves as she had wished. She is living “in the twilight of the double vision,” which is a state of “spiritual muddledom” that creates paralysis. Instead of uplifting her, her vision in the caves has revealed a maggoty eternity. She travels alone on the train to Bombay and watches the passing landscape, thinking that she has not seen the right places in India.
Following the climactic event of the trial, the theme of departure begins to assert itself. With the departure of Mrs. Moore, the character who has precipitated some of the main events in the novel disappears from the scene. Yet, while Mrs. Moore has served as a catalyst for other events, her active role is already over. Early in the novel, she held a fateful conversation with Aziz in the courtyard of the mosque. Later, her eagerness to meet Indians led to further developments. However, her experience in the Marabar Hills transforms her. From now on, Mrs. Moore begins to resemble a hollow, mysterious center, like the caves themselves. Her character exists as a passive space that continues to influence others without participating in action.
The echo Mrs. Moore first heard in the caves is now resounding in Miss Quested’s ear. She too identifies it with Evil. She also relies on Mrs. Moore to free her from it. However, when Heaslop takes her to see the older woman, there is no help, only the ominous assertion that Miss Quested will continue to hear the echo from now on. Adela finds that her friend has withdrawn into a combination of petty personal concerns and a kind of babble. Here, Forster is depicting the state of mind of someone who has suffered a shock and has had a breakdown because of it. The effect of shock on Miss Quested is to make her childishly dependent; Mrs. Moore’s transformation is more complete. Her words are rambling, though at times startlingly acute.
In Mrs. Moore, the breakdown takes the form of a withdrawal from human life. Formerly, she was eager for experience. Now she is preoccupied with “departure” in two senses: taking a ship back to England, and withdrawing from ordinary human responsibilities and concerns. She refuses to participate even in an event that deeply touches her, her friend, and her son. What might have become a spiritual revelation leading to true detachment has instead inspired a revulsion from life. When she speaks of retiring to a cave, it is a bitter, not a hopeful, vision.
Mrs. Moore’s seemingly aimless, querulous chatter contains moments of surpassing clarity. At last she says—referring to Aziz: “It isn’t the sort of thing he would do.” She is also prescient in saying of Adela: “She has started the machinery; it will work to the end.”
Curiously, even before Mrs. Moore has off-handedly affirmed Aziz’s innocence, Adela believes she has heard her say: “Aziz is innocent.” Considered rationally, this indicates that Miss Quested has made a mistake, one of the many muddles that have plagued her. Considered from the standpoint of telepathic communication, it indicates that she has picked up Mrs. Moore’s belief before it has been stated aloud. From now on, Mrs. Moore’s influence is to be transmitted subliminally, or spiritually.
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