Aron has worked hard to get ahead in school, and he is set to graduate a year early. Adam could not be prouder of him. He glowingly boasts to Lee about Aron’s accomplishments. Meanwhile, the minister at the church points out to Aron, who is considering going into the clergy, that a new woman has been coming by—she looks tired and haggard. The minister asks Aron to pray for her redemption.
It seems everything in Aron’s life is going just fine, but this passage contains a certain hint of danger. Adam’s pride in Aron is dangerous because it could potentially hurt Cal. This is underscored by the sudden appearance of Catherine Trask in Aron’s church—he is just inches away from the edge; the fate of Abel looms heavily over his character.
Adam assumes Aron will tell him as soon as his exams are finished, and Adam buys his son a gold watch to give him as a reward. But Adam hears about Aron passing the exams from Cal, who is shocked to hear that Aron kept this information from his father. Lee hears about this and threatens to fight Aron if he does not start treating his father better. Aron becomes sad, and expresses his desperate desire to get away from Salinas. Lee comforts him, and tells him to go through the motions, to pretend life is better than it is. Eventually, Lee promises, this will be true.
Aron does not love his father the way Cal does. Though his father is glowing with pride, Aron scorns him by neglecting to even tell him when he passes his exams. Lee, a kind of student of Sam Hamilton, gives Aron advice about how to keep going in the face of sorrow and dissatisfaction. Adam was able to overcome, but there’s no guarantee the same will be true of Aron.