Free Study Guide for East of Eden by John Steinbeck|
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Adam had great difficulty recovering from the loss of his wife. Even after the twins were a year old, he had not bothered to name them. When the kind Samuel heard about Adamís condition, he went to the Trask place to jolt Adam out of his depression. With Leeís help, Samuel suggested names for the boys from the Old Testament. Adam agreed to name one son Caleb, after the Biblical character who returned to the Promised Land, and one son Aaron, after Mosesí brother who did not make it back to the Promised Land. The choice of name was a foreshadowing of the fates of the twins.
When Samuel went to see Adam to announce that his children were forcing him to retire, he, Adam, and Lee discussed the Cain and Abel story from the Bible. Abel presents to the Lord the best of his sheep as a sacrificial offering, while Cain merely presents a small portion of his grain. The Lord is greatly pleased with Abelís sacrifice, but displeased with Cainís offering. As a result, Cain grows jealous of his brother and kills him. When the Lord questions Cain, he asks, "Am I my brotherís keeper?" The Lord admonishes him and punishes him, saying he will never be able to produce crops from the land again and must travel the earth as a wanderer. The Lord also speaks to Cain about sin. Lee told Samuel and Adam that the English versions of the Bible have a mistranslation from the Hebrew about Cainís sin. In his studies, Lee found that the Hebrew word timshel should be translated "you may," indicating that the Lord tells Cain he has freedom of choice and may choose goodness or evil.
After hearing the new interpretation of the Cain and Abel story, Samuel decided that he must tell Adam about Cathyís transformation into Kate, believing that it would help Adam reject her memory and get on with life. The naïve Adam refused to believe that Cathy had chosen such an evil existence. The next time he was in Salinas, for the funeral of Samuel, Adam went to Kateís house of prostitution. Seeing her aged appearance and wretched lifestyle, he finally accepted that he was no longer in love with her. When he returned home, he told Lee he wanted to begin anew.
Mr. and Mrs. Bacon, and their daughter Abra, called upon Adam and suggested that he should move to town with his boys so that they could attend better schools. Aaron was very impressed with Abra and vowed he would some day marry her. When Adam decided to make the move, Aaron found Abra the first day of school and they became inseparable. Cal felt left out and grew jealous of his brother.
After years of silence, Adam wrote a letter to his brother Charles and invited him for a visit. He received a return letter from an attorney, announcing Charlesí death and the terms of his will. He had divided his estate, worth $100,000, equally between Adam and Cathy. The good-hearted Adam went to Kate and gave her the portion of Charlesí estate, even though Lee advised against it. Adam used his portion of the inheritance to invest in shipping California lettuce to New York in poorly refrigerated train cars. When he lost his fortune, the town called him a fool, turned against him, and started circulating rumors about his past with Kate. Cal heard the rumors and found out the truth about his mother, eventually paying her a visit. Horrified over her condition and wanting to do the right thing, Cal vowed he would never tell Aaron the truth about their mother. He also decided that he would go into business and save enough money to give his father the amount that he had lost on the lettuce venture.
Abra was curious about Aaronís mother and goaded him to ask Adam about her. Aaron, however, wanted to believe that she was dead and in heaven, just as his father had always said. He could not bear to think that his father and Lee would lie to him. Not wanting to face the truth and desiring to run away from the shame of his fatherís business failure, Aaron decided to graduate early from high school and enter college to study and become a minister. When he told Abra of his plans to pastor a high church and remain celibate, she tried to change his mind and hoped he was only going through a phase.
Kate received a visitor, a woman named Ethel who used to work for her. She blackmailed Kate by indicating that she knew that Kate had murdered Faye. Kate sent her right-hand-man, Joe Valery, to find Ethel and bring her back. Kate, of course, was planning on murdering her. Joe seized the opportunity to try and trick Kate. He told her that he could not find Ethel, but that he heard she was planning a return trip to Salinas. In truth, he had learned that Ethel was dead. When Kate figured out that Joe was lying, she asked the sheriff to check his fingerprints, for she knew he was an escaped convict. When the deputy tried to arrest Joe, he ran. The deputy shot and killed him.
Aaron was coming home from college for Thanksgiving. Adam was terribly excited, for he missed his favorite son and had idealized him into perfection in his absence. Cal, wanting to buy his fatherís love, decided he would present him at Thanksgiving dinner with the $15,000 he had earned and saved. Adam rejected the money, which had been made from war profits, and told Cal he should try to be good like his brother. Cal retaliated by taking Aaron to see Kate. Kate was so upset by the encounter that she decided to commit suicide. Before she took her overdose of morphine, she wrote out her will, leaving everything to Aaron.
Aaron was so upset by learning the truth about his mother that he joined the military and was killed. When Adam heard about Aaronís death, he had a stroke. Cal blamed himself for his brotherís death and his fatherís illness. Lee tried to comfort Cal by telling him he was not evil; instead, he had the freedom to choose goodness or evil for himself. Lee knew, however, that Cal would never forgive himself unless he had his fatherís blessing; therefore, he took the remaining twin into Adamís room, where he blessed Cal and called out the word timshel to him, reminding Cal that he could choose goodness over evil, happiness over guilt. The novel ends on a hopeful note. Cal has become the Abel figure - the good son. Abra has fallen in love with him, and the reader is left to believe that they will have a normal married life together.
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TheBestNotes.com Staff. "TheBestNotes on East of Eden".
. 09 May 2017