Chapter 8 introduces Cathy Ames, the female character that Steinbeck deems a natural born “monster.” It is his contention that some people in the world are born with malformed minds in just the same way that others suffer outwardly visible disabilities.
The problem with others perception of Cathy is that they cannot see her inner self. Making matters more difficult is the fact that Cathy Ames is beautiful. People are blinded to her real nature by her appearance. “Cathy was a liar,” Steinbeck writes, “…her lies were never innocent…and they were used for profit.”
Cathy learns from a very young age that her sexuality is the best tool she has for getting men to do her bidding. As Cathy becomes a teenager, her sense of power increases. She seduces a high school teacher and then rejects him. The man becomes so distraught that he commits suicide.
On her sixteenth birthday, Cathy decides she is not going to school anymore. Her parents are incensed. After a lecture, she agrees to return but instead runs away from home. Her father brings her back and whips her for her disobedience.
Shortly after, a fire breaks out in the Ames home. The house is destroyed. Cathy’s parents die. The firefighters search for her body but do not find it, for she has escaped. It is clear to the reader (but not to the characters) that it is she who has set the house ablaze and murdered her parents.