Chapter 2

Chapter 2 introduces the Hamiltons, one of the two sets of families whose lives will be the intertwined throughout the novel. Samuel and Liza Hamilton, were, in fact, John Steinbeck’s actual maternal grandparents. Here, he recounts the story of how the couple immigrated from Ireland and came to settle in the Salinas Valley. Unfortunately for the Hamiltons, they arrived too late to claim the cheap and fertile homesteads. Instead, they had to settle for acreage that was “harsh and dry.” The challenges of the land are no match for the indomitable spirits of Liza and Samuel Hamilton. Although Steinbeck describes his grandmother as being “humorless as a chicken” with a “highly developed sense of sin” and “suspicious of fun,” it is clear that her personality balances out the zealous good nature of her husband. Samuel has a love for everything and everyone, the type of person who has never met a stranger and one who is generous to a fault. Together, Samuel and Liza manage, in their inimitable way, to raise a large family. The Hamilton clan is poor but happy, striving but not broken. At the end of Chapter Two comes first mention of the second family of the epic: the Trasks. Adam Trask is the complete opposite of Samuel Hamilton. He is moneyed, and therefore, able to purchase prime real estate. However, soon it will become clear that money is about the only thing Adam Trask has that Samuel Hamilton and his clan do not.