Part 1

Tom worked hard to make the Hamilton home a livelier place. He painted the house and whitewashed all the outer buildings, trying to manufacture happiness as cleverly as he knew how. Dessie saw him as a pure soul, someone who would fight dragons and save damsels. As Tom seemed to improve, Dessie drew worse, suffering from greater stomach pains. When Tom found her rigid with pain one day, she told him it was just a crick.

One day Dessie broke the code of silence between them and asked Tom why he never married. He told her no one wanted him. When she asked him if he ever used prostitutes, he admitted that he did. He told her he thought she was lonely in the country and should not stay. She told him she wanted to stay there more than anyplace else. She also suggested that they save their money and travel to Europe and the East. Tom agreed to the plan. That night in bed, Dessie wondered if she really wanted to go and if Tom did.

The next morning, Dessie found Tom working on plans to raise money for their trip. He wanted to buy a hundred young pigs and feed them acorns to fatten them. Dessie said she would hold a contest to encourage children to gather acorns for them. She would give bicycles or other prizes to the children who collected the most acorns.

Part 2

Tom went to see Will to borrow money for buying the young pigs. Will did what he always did with Tom's plans, making them seem foolish and unrealizable. In reality, Will thought the idea of buying baby pigs and feeding them acorns, a food source that cost nothing, was a great idea. He just thought Tom was not the one to do it since Tom was such a dreamer.

When he returned home, Tom found Dessie sick on the sofa. He gave her some salts to drink and said he would make her dinner. The salts made her pain worse. Tom helped Dessie to bed. When she called to him later, saying she was very sick, he stayed with her, reading from the almanac. When she screamed in pain, he rushed out to a neighbor's farm, where there was a phone. He broke down the door and called the doctor, who told him he had made a terrible mistake in giving Dessie salts. Before leaving for the Hamilton farm, the doctor told his wife to call Will Hamilton and tell him his sister was dying.

Part 3

After Dessie's funeral, Tom returned to the Hamilton farm. When he got inside, he felt as though the furniture was accusing him of a crime. Because he gave the salts to Dessie, he believed he murdered her. He talked to his father's spirit and told him that he had overestimated him as a son. He said he wanted to commit suicide and needed to know how to do it without his mother knowing. His father's spirit told him to open the drawer of the table and to use his head. Tom opened the drawer and took out writing paper. He wrote a letter to his mother about a new horse he had gotten. He wrote that he was determined to tame this horse and added that the person who sold it to him said the horse was so mean it would kill him, but that he was determined to break this horse by the end of the winter. Then he wrote another letter to his brother Will, saying that for their mother's sake he had to say that Tom had been killed by a fall from a horse. Tom then took out his rifle and a box of shells. He next rode to the post office and dropped the letters in the box. He then turned back toward the Hamilton place.


This poignant chapter tells of the deaths of Dessie and Tom, who represent the best qualities of the Hamilton family--nobility of spirit, idealism, and love. In their deaths, Steinbeck consigns all the best of the Hamiltons to the past. In sharp contrast to them, Will Hamilton represents a less noble future, where money is the most important thing in life.

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