Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
Trask ranch. Family ranch located in the richest part of the Salinas Valley, where the land is lush and fertile. The opposition of good and evil, light and dark–the overt theme of the novel–is further reflected in the contrast between the Trask ranch and the Hamilton farm, which is located in an arid, barren section of the valley.
The Trask ranch parallels the biblical Garden of Eden in that all is not perfect within it. Adam Trask’s wife, Cathy, who is born with a sinful nature, is restive. To get away, she shoots Adam, wounding him both physically and spiritually. A subsequent alteration of the setting represents a reversal of fortune as well. Samuel Hamilton’s introduction of a windmill changes his wasteland into a productive farm. Adam, on the other hand, fails disastrously in his effort to ship lettuce packed in ice by rail to the East Coast. His ranch deteriorates, his house becomes derelict, and his fields, gardens, and orchards are left unattended. The Trasks are metaphorically expelled from the Garden of Eden.
*Salinas. Major urban center in the Salinas Valley. Steinbeck uses a wealth of naturalistic detail in describing this community during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Its original settlers, the Mexicans, are succeeded by Americans from the East and, still later, by Irish and Chinese immigrants. Exciting and sometimes troubling new inventions–the windmill, the motorcar, refrigeration–are introduced into the town and its environs. Steinbeck shows how the economy and the very character of the community are altered by the advent of World War I. Salinas also is the place where Cathy Trask, after abandoning her husband and infant sons and changing her name to Kate, eventually becomes rich as the proprietress of a notorious brothel.
Connecticut farm. Place where Adam and his half-brother Charles grow up before coming to California; its location is identified only as being on the outskirts of a small town that was near a big town. As a boy, Adam hates his father, who is passionately loved by Charles. Conflicts between father and son and between brother and brother that are treated more fully later in the novel are introduced here. Much of the first quarter of the narrative, up until Adam marries Cathy in the West takes place in this setting. Adam goes to California hoping to find the happiness that has eluded him in the East. Steinbeck traces the history of this deteriorating New England family along with that of Samuel Hamilton’s Irish immigrant family, thereby revealing the diversity among those who came to California to make a new start.
Massachusetts town. Unnamed place in which Adam’s future wife, Cathy Ames, grows up. She appears to be innocent but is actually a manipulative sociopath. After her parents thwart her first attempt to leave home, she burns down their house, killing them and faking her own death. Afterward she becomes the mistress of a Boston man who operates a string of brothels and later the wife of the unsuspecting Adam. In California she becomes a terrible corrupting Eve figure–or perhaps the serpent–in the Eden of the Salinas Valley.