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Free Study Guide for East of Eden by John Steinbeck

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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES


CHAPTER 21


Summary


Part 1

Kate had the ability to wait for what she wanted and overcome any barriers. She could assess a situation, see what end she desired, and then rest in the assurance that she would achieve it.

The cook told about the will. At first he did not remember, but after Kate talked to him, he was convinced that he had told the other women about having witnessed the signing of the will. Then the women came to Kate to ask her about the will, and she told them they must talk directly to Faye. When they questioned her, she explained that Kate had become like a daughter to her and she wanted her to have everything. The next week, Kate became ill, but she did not stop her duties in the house. Finally she collapsed in the hallway in a fit of agony. Faye put her to bed and called Dr. Wilde, who prescribed a remedy for a kidney flush.


Part 2

Dr. Wilde was a good man, but he got confused at times. He was one of the older generation of doctors who still mixed his own medicine rather than relying on an apothecary. Kate arrived at Dr. Wilde’s office at 8: 30 in the morning and saw a sign on his door indicating that he would not be open until 11:00. She decided to wait for him. At 9:30, Dr. Wilde arrived at the office from a night call in which one of his elderly patients had died. His thoughts were also on another thirty-seven year old patient who had died the previous day. He tried his key in the lock, but it would not turn. When he pushed the door, it opened to reveal Kate inside. She told him she had come for more pills for her kidney condition. He asked her if he had left the door of the dispensary open. She asked him what a dispensary was, and he thought no more about it. Dr. Wilde asked about Faye’s health. When Kate said she was worried about Faye, the doctor told her to make certain that Faye ate more vegetables.

On her way out, Kate saw one book was out of line on the shelf and straightened it. Back in her own room at the house, Kate took five small bottles and a strip of paper with writing scribbled on it. She put them in a sock and stuffed them in an overshoe.


Part 3

During the next few months, a gradual change came over Faye’s house. The girls became sloppy and on edge. One evening at dinner, Kate congratulated Ethel on keeping her room so neatly. She gave Ethel a present as a reward. Ethel was so pleased she went upstairs and cleared the dirty clothes from under her bed. Kate did the same in complementing Grace’s prettiness, Alex’s cooking, and Cotton Eye’s piano playing. Everyone started to do more on their own initiative. Kate gave everyone presents to reward them for good work. The girls told each other how lucky they were to be working at Faye’s.

Faye, who had grown quiet and depressed, became secretive around Kate. One evening, Kate asked her what was the matter. Faye decided to test Kate. She asked Kate if she would like to go to Europe. During the night of the drinking bout, Faye had asked Kate about going to Europe, and Kate had told her she would never go. Now, Kate acted as though she would be excited to go and said it was always a dream of hers to travel to Europe. Faye relaxed as the suspicion went out of her face. Kate told her Alex, the cook, had suggested they start canning their own vegetables to save money in the winter. Faye was amazed at Alex’s initiative. The kitchen turned into a cannery and all the women helped. As a reward, Kate gave Alex a silver watch with his name engraved on the back. Every Sunday night, Kate and Faye had a private dinner together. Faye bragged about how clever Kate was in teaching her French words in preparation for their trip to Europe.



Part 4

On a Saturday in October, Kate brought Faye her tonic, which was Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound. She told Faye there was a fly in the glass, and she would wash it out in the kitchen. In the kitchen, she took out an eyedropper and squeezed out a few drops of nux vomica (a plant extract that contains strychnine, a poison). In Faye’s room, she gave Faye the mixture. Faye said it tasted bitter. Kate poured a spoonful from the bottle and agreed. She said the bottle must have been sitting too long and she would throw it out. At supper, Faye started feeling bad. The other women noticed she was flushed. The next day, Kate insisted they eat lightly. She made Faye a special string bean salad from the newly canned vegetable stock. On the salad dressing, she placed several drops of croton oil, which causes violent vomiting. She went to her own room and swallowed the contents of a small bottle of Cascara Sagrada (a plant used as a stimulant, cathartic, and laxative) and then went back to the kitchen. Kate became sick first and doubled over with pain. Faye called everyone in to help Kate to bed. Then Faye became sick. When Dr. Wilde arrived, he said the women were suffering from botulism and told them to throw out every jar of string beans.

Faye never got better even though Kate watched over her tirelessly. The other women said Kate would probably kill herself if Faye died. One night Dr. Wilde told her she needed to prepare herself for Faye’s death. That night, Kate took two bottles from her pocket and gave a mixture to Faye; it was strong enough to kill her. Then Kate went and crushed all the little bottles and buried them.

When Faye died, Kate acted so violently that they had to tie her down. She also pretended that she had forgotten about the will until Trixie reminded her.


Notes

In this chapter, it is clear that Kate is in control of Faye and her house of prostitution. Her cunning manipulation of Faye’s feelings and health is astonishing. While she is slowly killing Faye, Kate makes everyone else believe in her goodness. Her pretension is so good that the other prostitutes believe that Kate may kill herself if Faye dies. By the time Kate’s plan reaches its conclusion, she has convinced everyone that she loves Faye more than her own life. To prove her grief over Faye’s death, she reacts so violently that she must be tied down. She also pretends to forget about the will.


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