Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 584
It is the winter of 1918 and the war shows no signs of drawing to a close. People are becoming dejected. There are hundreds of thousands of casualties from many nations, and hopes for a quick and decisive victory have been dashed. Still, Americans are reluctant to "put on the doggedness" of a protracted conflict. Steinbeck-as-narrator remarks on how quickly people forget the pain and uncertainty of victory and soon remember only homecomings and parades.
Adam is given a leave of absence from the draft board because of his failing health. His left hand bothers him, his eyesight is failing, and he is often subject to troubling spells of dizziness. Adam is also troubled by the lack of communication from Aron, who rarely writes.
Later Cal insists that Adam go to town for an eye test. Surprisingly, Lee does not want Adam to go. Lee says that he fears it is not really his eyesight that is troubling him but something far deeper and more complex.
Lee asks Cal to find Abra and tell her he wants to speak with her. Cal is reluctant but Lee tells him that he has to open up. Cal asks if Lee wants him to tell Adam that he revealed Kate's identity to Aron. Lee says that eventually he will have to do so. Again Lee reiterates his desire to talk to Abra; he misses her.
Cal finds Abra after school the following day. She talks easily with him. Cal asks her why she shunned him before; Abra says it was because he was mad and she did not want to speak with him when he was in that state of mind.
She offers to let Cal carry her books and he gladly does so. Cal tells her his father is ailing. He asks if Abra has heard from Aron; she has. She shows Cal a postcard she received telling her he has joined the army, does "not feel clean," and is "not fit for her." Finally, he commands her to "not go near his father."
Cal wants to know if Abra hates him. She says he does not. But he tells her he has hurt both his brother and herself because she is his brother's girl. Abra insists that she is "not his brother's girl."
Cal confesses his deed. He tells Abra that Aron went crazy when he found out that their mother was a whore and that their father had lied to them. He tells Abra that Kate has committed suicide. And now, he says, Abra knows the whole story and has reason to hate him.
Abra surprises Cal by telling him she has long known the truth about his mother. She also stuns him by saying she has realized for quite a while that she does not love Aron. She had clung to their childhood dream for a long time but finally accepted the difference between fantasy and reality. Aron, she understands, does not or will not accept this difference.
Abra has one last surprise for Cal. She tells him that she loves him and that it is because he is not good. She promises to come to the Trask home the next day.
At her own home, Abra inquires after her ailing father. She goes to her room and realizes how much her mother has controlled her life, from the decor of her room to what she wears. Abra has come to accept this but knows her mother cannot control the privacy of her thoughts.