The story begins with a descriptive narrative about the Salinas Valley, in which the story is set. After a couple of paragraphs about the geographical setting, Steinbeck hones in on Henry Allen's ranch, which is located across the Salinas River.
Steinbeck specifically trains the spotlight on Elisa Allen (Henry's wife), the main protagonist of the story. In this exposition section, we learn that the story is mainly set at the Allen ranch and that Elisa will be the main focus of the story. We are told that Elisa is thirty-five years old, lean, and sturdy in build. As the story begins, she is cutting down the previous year's chrysanthemum stalks. Steinbeck portrays Elisa as an accomplished gardener.
As Elisa works, she watches Henry interact with two men in business suits. After the men leave, Henry makes his way towards Elisa. He first compliments Elisa on her extraordinary work with the chrysanthemums. Then, upon Elisa's inquiry, he tells her that he just sold thirty three-year-old steers to the two men for close to the price he wanted for them.
Obviously elated by his success, Henry suggests that he and Elisa go into town for a celebratory dinner and a movie. He also teases Elisa about attending the fights, but she quickly declines his offer to do so.
So, Steinbeck's story begins with an exposition section that introduces us to the setting and the main characters.