Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
SHORT PLOT/CHAPTER SUMMARY (Synopsis)
The narrator of the novel grew up in the Salinas valley in northern California. He remembers how the mountains to the east were always bright with light, while the mountains to the west were always dark and foreboding. The mountains foreshadow the story that will follow; it is a tale of good versus evil, the Cain and Abel story retold.
One of the narratorís relatives, Samuel Hamilton, came from Northern Ireland and settled with his wife Liza in the Salinas valley. Since the best land had been taken already, his land was rocky, rough, and unprofitable. In spite of their financial struggles, Liza and Samuel raised a large family that was very close. The sons became known for their ambition, and the daughters were known for their beauty. Samuel accepted his plight and life and became the philosopher of the region.
Adam Trask, a rich landowner, was one of Samuelís neighbors. Adam grew up with his brother Charles on a farm in Connecticut. Their father, Cyrus Trask, loved Adam best, even though Charles loved his father best. As a result of his fatherís favoritism, Charles was jealous of Adam even though he loved him dearly. When Cyrus sent Adam to join the army, Charles wrote his brother long letters telling him he missed him and wanted him back on the farm.
When Adam was released from the army, he wrote that he was coming home, and Charles was delighted. He worked tirelessly to get the farm ready for Adam; but when Adam began his journey, he realized he did not want to live with his jealous brother. As a result, he stayed in the army. Charles was hurt and angry. For five years the brothers had little contact, and when Adam was released again from the army, he did not think about going to the farm. Instead, he wandered the country as a hobo and was imprisoned on a chain gang for a year. When he escaped from his captivity, Adam decided to return to the farm; but things did not go smoothly between the brothers. Because he and Charles argued regularly, Adam decided to leave. After wandering the country for a long time, he again returned to the farm. Shortly after his return, the brothers received word that their father had died and left them a fortune. Charles was certain their father stole the money from the army, but Adam thought their father was innocent.
Cathy Ames, a teenage girl, grew up different from all other children. She was precociously sexual, but managed to keep others from finding out about it. She sacrificed her lovers, even when it meant their imprisonment or death. When her parents tried to limit her freedom, she carefully planned and carried out their murder and then left town with their money. Cathy applied for a job as a prostitute; the manager wanted her for his own and set her up in a house. She manipulated him in an effort to gain her own independence. One night, he got Cathy drunk. She lost control and revealed her disgust for him and her plans to escape from him. He took her on a train trip to a country town, where he beat her severely and left her for dead. Cathy came to consciousness and crawled to the Trask farm, where Charles and Adam were living. Adam nursed Cathy back to health and married her. The evil Cathy drugged Adam on their wedding night and had sex with Charles.