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The wife of Samuel. She is humorless and morally strict - an opposite of her husband.
The wife of Cyrus Trask and mother of Charles Trask. She lives quietly, content to serve others.
The oldest Hamilton son. He moves to the city and becomes a successful businessman. He helps Cal get started in business.
Another Hamilton son. He moves to the city and becomes a businessman in the insurance field.
Another Hamilton son. He stays on the farm and reads books devotedly. He commits suicide after blaming himself for the death of his sister, Dessie.
Another Hamilton son who attends Stanford College.
The favorite Hamilton daughter. She becomes a popular dressmaker in Salinas. After a failed romance she moves to the home place with Tom, but soon dies of a stomach ailment. Tom blames himself for her death.
Olive "Ollie" Hamilton
The narrator’s mother. Her husband’s name is Ernest Steinbeck.
A "whore-master" who runs a successful business setting up prostitutes in small town hotels and then rotating them over a two-week period between towns. He has an affair with Catherine Ames, then beats her and leaves her to die. He dies in old age choking on a chicken bone.
The wife of Mr. Edwards. Devoted to her religion, she remains willfully ignorant of the nature of her husband’s business.
A farmer in Salinas Valley who introduces Adam Trask to Samuel Hamilton.
The deputy sheriff who investigates the shooting at the Trask ranch. Years later, he brings Kate’s will to Adam and burns the photographs she had planned to use to ruin the reputations of the state’s leading male citizens.
A neighboring rancher, who attends the first meeting between the deputy sheriff and Adam Trask after the shooting.
A madam of a house of prostitution in Salinas. When Kate goes to work for her, Fate adopts her as a daughter. Kate kills her with several poisons.
A doctor whose age and confusion Kate uses in her scheme to kill Faye.
A prostitute who worked for Faye and then Kate, after Faye’s death. Years later, she tries to extort money from Kate out of her knowledge of Kate’s murder of Faye.
The narrator’s younger sister.
The girlfriend of Aaron throughout their school years together in Salinas. Years later, when she realizes Aaron cannot grow up, she falls in love with Cal.
The minister of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Salinas, who serves as Aaron’s mentor. He is attracted to high church doctrines and inspires in Aaron a desire for purity.
A man who works for Kate in her house of prostitution. An escaped convict, he tries to trick Kate about her fear of Ethel. She learns of his betrayal and turns him in to the sheriff.
A German American who is persecuted during the war by the citizens of Salinas because of his accent and his foreign manner. The narrator remembers with shame how he and his sister participated in this persecution.
A handy man in Salinas who knows all the gossip and tells Joe Valery the rumors about Kate killing Faye.