As they open the novel with their personal recollections of the Salinas River Valley, the narrator (whose gender is initially unspecified) comments that the river “was not a fine river at all” but was all they had, so they boasted about it. While they mention a few people, such as their grandfather, most of the chapter consists of description of the landscape and mentions of the narrator’s mixed emotions toward life in such a difficult place.The second section shifts to a descriptive and historical account of the peopling of the valley.
Although we do not hear the narrator identify themself for several pages, the strong presence of this first-person narrator at the outset makes it clear that the opinions presented are those of one person—the narrator, and not necessarily the author. The narrator concludes the section by stating that it was this landscape and as a followup to the settlement of these people that their grandfather and his wife came and settled. By establishing the difficulties that the previous people faced offering the opinion that they were not all wonderful people, the narrator implies that their ancestors also may have been less than perfect.