Free Study Guide for East of Eden by John Steinbeck|
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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