After finalizing Cyrus' will, Adam and Charles went to Washington to visit his grave. Upon their return, they attempted to settle into a routine. Adam urged Charles to spend some of his inheritance, but Charles worried that if the money were stolen, he would have to give it back.
The narrator notes that men cannot live together without sinking into a kind of "shabby neatness out of incipient rage at each other." Charles and Adam Trask began to live together in this manner, agreeing about very little. Charles believed in getting up to work at four thirty every morning. When Adam complained, Charles insisted that a person cannot run a farm by sleeping late. They bickered about other things as well, with Adam picking at Charles over every detail of his life. Finally Adam left.
After eight months, Adam returned to the farm from Boston, where he had been living. As the brothers settled into a new routine, they tried hard not to irritate one another. After awhile, Adam urged Charles to consider moving to California. Charles, however, was adamant about staying on the farm. Charles also suggested that Adam needed to visit a prostitute to help him relax. Adam told Charles how he had his own Indian prostitute when he was in the army. He confessed that he had fallen in love with her, but she died of small pox. Charles then confessed to Adam that he had been in love with a schoolteacher; but she was too popular to care about him.
Charles asked Adam if he was still thinking about California. When Adam answered that he was, Charles lost his temper and told Adam to leave. Adam agreed.
Charles received letters and postcards from Adam, as he traveled in South America. When Adam returned to the farm, he tried to tell Charles about Buenos Aires, but Charles did not want to hear anything about it. Charles admitted that he missed Adam when he was gone, but he could not stand all the bickering when he was back on the farm.
Adam noticed that Charles had added more land to the farm while he was gone and suggested that his brother build a new house on it; but Adam was not interested. Adam also learned that Charles had bought property in town, including the inn. Adam could not understand why Charles worked so hard. In contrast, Adam did not want to spend his life working on a farm.
Charles questioned Adam about why he never paid him back the hundred dollars he lent him to come home the first time. Adam admitted that he had forgotten all about it. He then told Charles what had happened to him. He explained that he ran from the chain gang three days before he was to be set free because he thought he would only be picked up again and re-imprisoned. Charles seemed amused and almost proud that his brother had been in jail.
Steinbeck opens the chapter in a characteristic way by making a universal statement about human nature, which he then applies to his characters. He notes that men cannot live together without falling into rages. He then shows how Adam and Charles Trask have great difficult living together. Opposites by nature, they bicker all the time. When Adam grows tired of the fighting, he always leaves, but he never fails to return to the farm.
Charles is the steady one, who wants to be financially successful. He works according to a strict code, pushing himself to rise and begin work at four thirty each morning. He invests his money wisely, buying more land. His only release from the routine of his existence is a trip to the prostitute. In contrast to the practical Charles, Adam is a philosopher, dreamer, and visionary. He does not want to waste the rest of his life working on a farm. Each time he leaves, he travels afar; first he goes to Boston for several months and then to South America. He also dreams of moving to California and tries to talk his brother into it; but Charles has no desire to leave the farm.
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