Babbitt is elected vice president of the Booster's club. When he returns to the office, gloating over his new success, Miss McGoun informs him that Myra has been calling for him. Myra informs him that Riesling has been arrested for shooting Zilla, who may not survive. Babbitt hurries to the city jail, but Riesling refuses to see him. Babbitt succeeds in getting Prout to order the warden to allow Babbitt to see Riesling anyway. Riesling explains that he simply snapped under Zilla's bitter nagging, but he refuses to allow Babbitt to blame Zilla. At home, Babbitt refuses to allow his family to discuss the matter. Thankfully, his friends at the Athletic Club tactfully do not discuss it in Babbitt's presence either. Babbitt offers to perjure himself to save Riesling, but his lawyer advises against it. Zilla recovers from her wound, and Riesling pleads guilty. After he is sentenced to three years in the State Penitentiary, Babbitt feels that the world is "meaningless."
Babbitt throws himself into his work to avoid thinking about Riesling. When Tinka and Myra go on vacation, he settles into a restless depression. He is unable to feel at ease with his friends, and neither movies nor Verona's books can keep his attention. One day, he encounters a very drunk Chum Frink on the street and listens to him complain that his career as a poet is not as good as it should have been. Sitting in his house, pondering his discontent with his life, Babbitt realizes that he wants his fairy girl in the flesh. He flirts with Miss McGoun, but she rebuffs his advances. Failing at that, he flirts with Louetta Swanson who likewise rebuffs him.
When Babbitt visits Riesling in prison, he is depressed to see that Riesling's face is "pale and without expression." He senses "that in this place of death Paul [is] already dead." He returns to Zenith full of dissatisfaction with his whole life. When an attractive widow, Tanis Judique, comes to his office, Babbitt personally takes her to see an apartment. They flirt during the expedition, but Babbitt is too timid to really come on strong. When he later stops in a barbershop, he flirts with a young manicurist, Ida Putiak, who accepts his invitation to dinner. The dinner fails to lead to an illicit affair, so Babbitt feels like a fool.
Babbitt continues to fantasize about a fairy girl in the flesh. When Myra and Tinka return home, the pressure to act happy wearies him. Babbitt tells Myra that he needs to go to New York on business, but he actually takes a trip to Maine. He unsuccessfully attempts to establish a rapport with Joe Paradise, one of the woodsmen who works as a guide. Babbitt considers abandoning his family and living alone in the wilderness, but he returns to Zenith, filled with a greater restlessness than ever before.
On the train back to Zenith, Babbitt encounters Seneca Doane. Because he is the only person Babbitt knows on the train, they strike up a conversation. Doane assures Babbitt that he holds no grudge against Babbitt over the mayoral race. He reminds Babbitt that in college Babbitt had been liberal while Doane had been conservative.
Babbitt visits Zilla in Zenith and attempts to persuade her to get a pardon for Riesling from the governor. Zilla is much thinner and her shoulder is partially paralyzed from the gunshot injury. She has become religious, but she remains bitter toward her husband. She states that what he did was evil and deserved punishment.