That night Cyrus goes hunting for Charles with a shotgun, but Charles hides out in town for a few weeks, and when he returns his father has calmed down. Adam is enlisted in the army as a private; the narrator remarks that it is strange to him that men like Adam are so often the ones called upon to do soldiering. Adam is revolted by violence, and his time in the army, fighting Native American uprisings, only increases his distaste for bloodshed. He deliberately misses his shots to avoid killing the enemy, but he earns a reputation as a kind of hero because he goes above and beyond to rescue and save the lives of his wounded comrades.
Adam’s peaceful nature, rather than being corrected or reversed by the life of a soldier, is in fact exaggerated and intensified. The reader should keep this part of Adam’s character in mind when he rejects his son Cal’s gift of money. Though in Genesis, God has no ostensible reason for rejecting Cain’s gift but accepting Abel’s, this novel gives us a backstory that allows us to understand Adam’s underlying motivations for his ultimate rejection of Cal.
Charles writes Adam long, sentimental letters while he is away. It is as though Charles is able to express his feelings in writing but not in speech; he tells Adam he misses him, but he also continues to wonder about why Cyrus chose Adam as the favorite son. Charles also tells Adam he is thinking of taking a wife. He tells Adam to come home as soon as possible.
Charles’ letters reveal that he is more complicated than he seemed at first. He is not an angry brute; his letters humanize him. This is crucial, for the novel uses Cain as a symbol for all humanity—so the humanity in Charles is an important extension of this understanding.