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Free Study Guide for East of Eden by John Steinbeck

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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES


CHAPTER 18


Summary


Part 1

Horace Quinn, the new deputy sheriff of the King City district, headed to the Trask place to see what had happened with the shooting. On the way there, he met Julius Euskadi, a rancher in the district, who asked if he could come along. As they traveled to the Trasks, they discussed the new house of prostitution in town, called Faye’s. Horace also learned that Adam had fired all the workers on his ranch and told them not to come back.

When the two men arrived, Horace shouted to Lee, calling him "Ching Chong." He took them inside to see Adam, who looked deathly on the bed. Adam told the deputy that he accidentally shot himself when he was cleaning his gun; he said he was not used to guns. The deputy led him through a number of questions, finally revealing that his story was completely unbelievable in light of the fact that Adam had been in the army. He threatened to take Adam to the sheriff’s office if he did not tell the truth. When he asked to speak to Mrs. Trask, Horace found out she had left. Suddenly, Adam started weeping. Horace and Julius left him alone and talked over the situation. Julius wondered if Adam had shot his wife. He suggested that Horace go talk to Samuel Hamilton to get his ideas and to get a physical description of Cathy, since the only description Adam could give was that she was beautiful.


Part 2

Horace took a freight train to King City to confer with the sheriff there. He ran into Will Hamilton, who appeared as to be a prosperous and influential man. Will told him to think about running for sheriff; but Horace was not sure if he wanted to do all kinds of negotiations and mediations without ever arresting anyone or causing a fuss.

When Horace got to the sheriff’s office, he told him all he had found out from Adam and asked the sheriff what to do next. After giving Horace a drink of whiskey, the sheriff told him the county was a well-run place that settled things quietly. Then he told Horace about the new house of prostitution called Faye’s. He said he allowed houses of prostitution to exist because the people in town wanted them and because he knew they would just move elsewhere if he closed them down. He then explained that Faye had recently called him to see a new woman who had come to work for her. Although she looked like a runaway girl, the sheriff said she had the same physical description as Mrs. Trask. Horace was horrified at the prospect of having to tell Adam this news and said he would rather resign than carry out the duty. The sheriff said he needed to keep the news to himself because he did not want the twins to grow up knowing their mother was a whore.



Part 3

With his wife gone, Adam was miserable. As he solemnly sat under a tree at his place one day, Samuel came up and sat beside him. He told Adam he needed to "act out being alive . . . and after a while, a long while, it will be true." Adam asked why he should act alive. Samuel looked at the twins and told Adam he needed to be alive for their sakes.


Notes

Steinbeck’s description of the workings of the town, as seen from both the deputy and the sheriff’s points of view, further develops the background of the novel in the turn of the century west. The deputy is a prejudiced man, referring to Lee as Ching Chong, but no one seems surprised or bothered by the slur, including Lee. Steinbeck also shows how the reasonable and practical sheriff believes in handling things in his own quiet way. He allows and oversees the houses of prostitution, for he knows if he closed them down, they would just move elsewhere. He also advises Horace to say nothing to Adam or anyone else about Cathy being a prostitute at Faye’s, for he does not want the twin boys to know their mother is a whore.

It is clear that Adam is devastated by what has happened. Not wanting to believe the truth about his wife, Adams lies to the deputy, saying he accidentally shot himself. The deputy, however, does not believe him, especially after he learns that Cathy Trask has gone away. When he travels to King City to talk to the sheriff, he learns that Cathy has become a prostitute at Faye’s. Horace knows the news would crush Adam. As a result, he said he would rather resign than tell him. At his point, the sheriff advises him to keep the news to himself.

The short third part of the chapter cleverly reveals the depth of Adam’s pain. As he sits in misery under a tree, Samuel joins him. He tells Adam he must act alive, even if he does not feel like doing it, for the sake of the twin boys.


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