After a period of brooding, Adam visits Kate at the brothel to inform her of his brother's death and about her share of the $100,000 inheritance. She becomes fearful and frustrated when she realizes she cannot control him. Adam next visits Samuel's wife, Liza, in Salinas. Here he meets Olive's children Mary and the narrator and author, John Steinbeck. Liza tells Adam he should buy her daughter Dessie's house.
Tom Hamilton never recovered from his father's death. Alone on the ranch, Dessie's return cheers him. She doesn't want to distress him and hides her severe stomach pains.
Tom and Dessie decide to raise pigs to finance a trip abroad. Tom finds Dessie in severe distress and inadvertently gives her the wrong medication. After Dessie's death, Tom's overwhelming sense of guilt causes him to shoot himself.
The Hamilton family illustrates twentieth-century progress in the Salinas Valley, the site of author John Steinbeck's childhood. Steinbeck insists that in developing a new land, first come the strong individuals followed by the industrialists, bankers and lawyers. Samuel and Liza work the driest land and yet they survive. Their children Tom and Dessie lack the strength of their parents. Their brother Will, the car salesman, however, possesses the wherewithal to succeed.