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Free Study Guide for East of Eden by John Steinbeck

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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES


CHAPTER 7


Summary


Part 1

Adam spent his second five-year term in the army in uneventful routine. Then in late 1890, he was released as a sergeant. He wrote to Charles that this time he was coming home; but on the way, he became a drifter, wandering from one place to the other, begging for food, and sitting over campfires with other "lost" men. Adam found that he enjoyed this new life.

As he traveled in the south, Adam was surprised by the brutality of the police. When he saw a law enforcement officer, he tried to make himself invisible. In Florida, he was arrested for vagrancy and made to work on a chain gang for six months. When he was released, he was arrested again and made to work another six months. His life on the chain gang was brutal and cruel. He learned that the only way to be safe was to keep himself small and non-threatening to the guards. Two days before he was to be set free, Adam escaped down the river. Arriving in a town, he entered a store after hours and stole some new clothes for himself. The next day, he went to the railway station.


Part 2

Charles received so few letters that he sometimes failed to visit the post office to inquire about his mail. In February of 1894, he received news that his father had died. He was shocked to learn that his father had left over $93,000 in cash and another $10,000 in securities; his instructions were that the fortune was to be shared equally by his two sons, Adam and Charles. Charles wished Adam were at home to receive his share of the inheritance.

One day Charles received a telegram from Adam asking for one hundred dollars so he could come home. The telegraph officer told Charles that in order to ensure it was actually Adam who picked up the money, Charles must ask a question to which only Adam would know the answer. Charles, excited by the game, posed the question, "What present did you give father just before you went into the army?" The answer, he told the telegraph man, was a puppy.


Part 3

Adam arrived home looking thin. When Charles greeted him enthusiastically, Adam was surprised to find that he was no longer afraid of his brother. Adam commented on Charlesí scar and told him of a bartender, nicknamed Cat, who had a scar on his forehead in the shape of a feline. Charles told Adam that Cyrus was dead and buried with great ceremony in Washington D.C. Charles then asked Adam if he loved their father. Adam said he did not. Charles could not understand this, for Cyrus so obviously loved Adam.

Recalling once again the gifts that they had given their father, Charles told Adam that Cyrus had not even taken the knife with him to Washington, but the dog was there at his funeral, blind and decrepit. Charles then told Adam about their inheritance and how the will divided their fatherís wealth equally between the two sons. Adam was shocked to hear the amount of the inheritance, for he thought Cyrus had made very little money. Charles suggested that perhaps he had stolen the money. Adam defended their father, saying men in power have access to information on speculation and that he could have gotten the money in any number of legitimate ways. It was then that Charles told Adam that their father had lied all along about his career in the army. He had never really seen any action, for he been discharged before any of the big battles were fought. When Adam seemed totally unaffected by the news, Charles asked him whether he killed any Indians in the war. Adam replied that he did, but that he did not want to talk about it. Charles asked Adam if he would like to visit the prostitutes at the inn, but Adam did not want to go. Instead, he asked Charles about their mother. Charles had nothing to say about her death and reminded Adam that she was not Adamís real mother.


The talk then returned to Cyrus. Adam at first suggested that he write to Washington to inquire if the money from their father might be stolen; but then he claimed that it was impossible. He could have faith in Cyrus because he did not love him, for love always made a person suspicious and doubting. Adam then told Charles that their father sent him out to the army as a sacrifice; but he had left Charles alone because he had faith in Charles. Adam then told his brother that they should do something with the money, perhaps go to California, but first they must make a huge monument to their father.


Notes

This chapter is important, for the two brothers are reunited. There is a new relation between them, for they no longer have to be jealous of one another since their father is now dead and treated them equally in his will. The question of the inheritance is central to the chapter. Since Cyrus has left a huge sum of money to them, Charles was certain that he stole it; Adam was certain that it was not stolen. He had faith in his father; because he did not love Cyrus, he was free to believe in him. Because Charles did love their father, he was jealous and doubting. In a mirror image, because their father loved Adam, he was doubting of him and sent him into the army to test him; because Cyrus did not love Charles, he had faith in him and left him alone. At the end of the Chapter, Adam suggested to Charles that the two of them go to California, where they are sure to encounter the Hamiltons, bringing the two families of the story together.

The passages in which Steinbeck narrates Adamís experiences as a hobo reveal his emotion for the working poor and the misfits of society. Like Steinbeck, Adam respects the poor, for he finds that even though they have nothing, they are still willing to give to those who are poorer. As a result, he finds great communion with his fellow wanderers. The peace that he finds with them is a sharp contrast to his harrowing experiences in the south. The poor black sharecroppers would like to feed him and help him out, but they could not afford to trust white people no matter how poor they were. The brutality of the police was shocking to Adam, and his experiences on the chain gang revealed that the guards had lost all their humanity in their torture of their fellow human beings.

Steinbeckís style often consists of spare prose that is skillfully and intentionally written in understatement. He does not discuss the evils of sharecropping or the degradation of the chain gangs; instead, he paints succinct, but clear, pictures that force the reader to draw his/her own negative conclusions.


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