WWI begins, but at first it has no effect on the people in the Salinas Valley—they live as they always have. Aron, meanwhile, has become deeply interested in religion, and in the process become solitary and introverted. Aron’s detachment from the world angers Cal, who has to fight the urge to reveal his mother’s identity to Aron simply to shake him out of his introverted meditations. Abra thinks Aron enjoys feeling sad and ashamed—Cal doesn’t understand this.
Cal is already resisting strong temptations to tell the truth to his brother—and in so doing knowingly destroy him. Aron turns to religion not to understand humanity and his place in it—as Lee and Sam Hamilton did—but to escape from reality.
Cal is determined to help Aron go to college and to earn back his father’s fortune lost on the lettuce experiment. He joins forces with Will Hamilton, who lets him in on a plan to subsidize bean farming, offering farmers slightly over the current market price for their beans. Will is sure the war will skyrocket the price of imperishables such as beans, and is confident they will make huge profits by then re-selling the beans they have bought at slightly over-market price at a much higher value. Will likes Cal’s honesty and his uncomplicated way of thinking, and gladly makes him a partner in this business venture.
Though it has been established that Will Hamilton is a greedy, in many ways amoral character, Cal’s decision to team up with Will is one made out of love, compassion, and generosity. By teaming up with Will, Cal acknowledges that great deeds are combinations of good and evil. He acknowledges that shades of grey exist; he is willing to sacrifice some small virtue in order to help someone he loves.