After his night with Ramona, Moses takes her to breakfast and then to the flower shop where she works. They kiss as they step out of the cab, and Moses finds himself happy, a moment of pleasure that dissipates as he gets in a cab alone. In the cab, Moses decides to attend parents' day at his son's camp. He also decides that he will have to talk to the lawyer, Simkin, about the babysitter Geraldine's claim that Valentine exhibited abusive behavior toward June.
Moses has a long conversation with Simkin and gets very agitated. Simkin speaks of the irony of Moses' will, which specifies that if anything happens to Moses, Valentine Gersbach should have guardianship of June. Simkin, although quite busy, decides to meet Moses in the courthouse later that day. After his conversation with Simkin, Moses writes several letters, including one about Jimmy Hoffa's single-mindedness. Moses begins to remember Valentine lighting Chanukah candles for his son, Ephraim, and then dancing around with the boy in utter happiness, an expression of pure love on his face. He remembers Madeleine's expression at this scene, and realizes that it was an expression of true love.
Moses recalls his mother's contention that mankind was made from the soil, from dirt, as the Bible says Adam was made. She showed him the circle of dirt that arose when she rubbed her hand repeatedly. Moses recalls his mother's death. He thinks of Daisy mother, who was once a strong "modern woman," a woman of will and strength, and is now senile and living in a home for the elderly.
Moses goes to the courthouse to meet with Simkin. In the cab on the way there, the taxi driver recognizes Moses as the man who was kissing a beautiful woman earlier that day. The taxi driver saw Moses and admired his taste in women. Once in the courthouse, Moses waits for Simkin and witnesses several court cases. There is an assault and robbery case, a sexual misconduct case against a foreign medical intern, a trial of a male prostitute, and a case about a store hold-up. After watching these cases, Moses has a spell of sorts. He feels "bitterness" in his blood, begins to sweat, and feel his heart. He leaves the courtroom for a moment. After his spell passes, he attempts to find Simkin once again. Eventually he forgets about the lawyer and watches another case, the trial of a mother accused of murdering her child. Moses is highly disturbed by the case and finds himself having another spell. Bile and vomit rise up into his mouth.
The novel will eventually make the claim that one must overcome the idea of death in order to live happily. This chapter brings death to the fore for the first time. There is mention of a telegram Moses sent to Gersbach that read, "Dirt Enters At The Heart," spelling "death" with the first letter of each word. Death recurs when Moses thinks back to his mother's death, and thinks of the impending death of Daisy's mother. In court, Moses sees the trial of a mother accused of killing her child. Death surrounds Moses as if he must overcome death in order to continue. The idea of death causes spells of nausea in Moses, as if he is battling the idea of man's demise. At one point he says, "Things would change. When we have come to better terms with death, we'll wear a different expression, we human beings. Our looks will change. When we come to terms." Although the idea of death casts him down now, this passage shows Moses' optimistic idea that eventually he will overcome his fear of death.
Moments of love also dot this section. The section begins with Moses kissing Ramona in public. After kissing her, he understands what he might have felt in if he had "been simply a loving creature." The idea that Valentine is abusing Moses' daughter is juxtaposed with the remembered moment in which Valentine swings his son around with an expression of love in his face. It is at this moment that Moses understands that Madeleine truly loves Gersbach.
In section one, Moses Herzog is found alone in a big old house in the Berkshires, reflecting on his past, trying to come to terms with his troubled life: middle aged, twiced divorced, impotent.
He is thought to be out of his mind by Madeline, his ex-second wife, who fell in love with Valentine, his best friend.