To Adam who was an instrument, who saw not the future farms but only the torn bellies of fine humans, it was revolting and useless. When he fired his carbine to miss he was committing treason against his unit, and he didn’t care. The emotion of nonviolence was building in him until it became a prejudice like any other thought-stultifying prejudice. To inflict any hurt on anything for any purpose became inimical to him.

This quotation appears in Chapter 4, Section 2 and highlights Adam’s pure and goodhearted nature. Unlike his brother, Adam is poorly suited for the battlefield as he cannot help but recognize and lament the suffering that his actions bring to others. This perspective works to align him with Abel and foreshadows his inability to effectively stand up for himself, especially with regards to Cathy. He does not see any benefit to inflicting violence and refuses to let outside forces change his personal values.

On his drive back to the ranch Adam found that he was noticing things he had not seen for years…And suddenly he found himself saying aloud in rhythm with his horse’s trotting feet, “I’m free, I’m free. I don’t have to worry any more. I’m free. She’s gone. She’s out of me. Oh, Christ Almighty, I’m free!” 

After attending Samuel’s funeral and confronting Cathy in Salinas, Adam experiences a reawakening of his senses and gains a better understanding of reality as a result. This quotation, which appears in Chapter 26, Section 1, emphasizes the idea that Adam is finally free from the cloud of evil that Cathy brought into his life. By meeting his wife face to face after many years apart, Adam can see that the idealized woman he once believed in does not exist. This realization serves as a key turning point for him as it gives him the emotional strength to truly embrace his sons.

“She killed herself last night.” Adam’s face contorted and his eyes swelled and glistened with tears. He fought his mouth and then he gave up and put his face down in his hands and wept. “Oh, my poor darling!” he said. 

    In Chapter 51, Sheriff Quinn arrives at the Trask house in order to tell Adam that Cathy has committed suicide. Adam’s emotional reaction in this moment may initially seem surprising given how fraught his relationship with his wife was, but it ultimately reveals that his sympathetic, goodhearted nature has not changed over time. He laments the loss of any life, just as he did during his days in the military. This response also emphasizes the idea that Adam and Cathy’s marriage was far more complex than a simple binary relationship between good and evil.