When Lee returned to the Trasks in 1915, he settled in for good. He unpacked his books, fixed up his room, and started spending Adam's money on household appliances, including an icebox. Adam became fascinated with the idea that ice preserved things. He read of the discovery of a frozen mastodon whose meat was still fresh after centuries. Adam then began to study refrigeration. He invited Will Hamilton over to discuss the idea of shipping produce to the northeast under refrigeration. In typical fashion, Will told him the idea was ridiculous and that it would surely fail. He said Adam should plant beans on his farm and forget about shipping perishable goods. When Will left, Lee encouraged Adam. He told him he could plant beans after he bought the ice plant.
Adam decided to give his idea a try. Using money from his inheritance, he packed loads of lettuce on a train bound for the east and labeled the cars with banners that announced "Salinas Valley Lettuce." A series of mishaps made the project fail. The lettuce arrived in New York weeks after it was due, and it was all rotten. Everyone began to call Adam a fool. When Adam asked Lee how much money he had left, Lee told him he had only nine thousand dollars and the ranch. When Adam said he would figure something out, Lee said to figure something that did not cost money.
The twins, now fifteen years old, were worried about the family's financial situation. They were also teased about Adam's failure. At school, the students called them Aaron and Cal Lettuce. Aaron was particularly concerned. He told Abra he was no longer worthy of her because he was just another poor boy. Abra said she did not care and promised to stay by his side. She even suggested that they go back to the farm and run it after they got married. Aaron protested, saying he was not going to be a farmer and she was not going to be a farmer's wife.
Since Aaron and Abra spent a lot of time together, Cal felt left out and lonely. When he tried to win Abra for himself, Cal was totally unsuccessful. When he tried to join with them, it was clear that they were not interested in his company. As a result, Cal was very restless.
Since Adam had fallen out of favor with the town, people began to gossip about the family's past.
When Abra heard some of the rumors, she suggested that Aaron directly confront his father about his mother. Aaron rejected the idea. It was obvious that he did not want to face the truth.
This chapter develops plot, character, and theme. Fully alive once again, Adam becomes interested in refrigeration. He invests a large sum of money to send California produce to the East Coast in a train car that is poorly refrigerated. The lettuce rots on the way, and everyone calls him a fool. Even the fifteen-year-old twins are teased by their fellow students and called lettuce heads. Since Adam has fallen out of favor in Salinas, people once again begin to gossip about his past. Abra hears some of the rumors and encourages Aaron to confront his father about his mother. Aaron, fearing the truth, rejects her idea.
Cal is deeply affected by the closeness of the relationship between his brother and Abra. They spend all of their free time together and even talk about the future when they will be married. At first Cal tries to steal Abra for himself, but she has no interest in this secretive twin. Cal then tries to join with Abra and Aaron, but they have no interest in his company. As a result, he feels left out, lost, lonely, and restless. There is a sense of trouble brewing.
The theme of progress is interwoven with the Trask family history within the chapter. Adam's experiment in refrigerated shipping indicates that technological advancements are an important part of the early twentieth century. When his project fails, the townspeople band together in an almost evil plot and reject Adam. They also begin to spread rumors about his past, which are sure to hurt the twins. Steinbeck never veers far from his theme of good vs. evil.
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