Free Study Guide for East of Eden by John Steinbeck|
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Abra began to tell a made-up story with Caleb and Aaron as the characters. In the story, they had a wicked stepmother who wanted to kill them. When they said their mother was dead, Abra started a different story with them being orphans. Cal did not care about her story and interrupted her. Abra stopped the story and asked where their mother was buried. Cal had a smile on his face when she started this line of questioning. He answered that he did not know where she was buried, but he would ask their father so they could take flowers to her grave. Abra comforted Aaron and told him she would help him make a wreath for his mother. When Aaron left to prepare the rabbit for Abra, Cal was delighted to be alone with her. He always schemed for ways to punish people for liking his brother better than him. First he laughed at Abra for saying she was almost eleven years old. He then shocked her by implying that Lee whipped both Aaron and him severely, scarring their backs, but they were too frightened of Lee to tell their father. Finally he told Abra that Aaron was going to put a snake in her rabbit box, which would bite her when she opened it.
Caleb took great pleasure in upsetting Abra. It was his way of striking back at Aaron. Caleb knew that he and his brother were very different. If Aaron came upon an anthill, he would lie down beside it and study the workings of the colony. If Cal came upon it, he would destroy it and watch the ants scrambling in panic. The narrator commented that "Aaron was content to be part of his world. But Cal must change it."
When the children went back to the house, Abraís parents told her to get into the carriage. Just before she did, Cal told her she had wet her pants. Aaron handed her the box with the rabbit in it and told her not to open it yet. As she was driving away, she threw the box on the road, certain that it contained a snake. Aaron, not knowing what Cal had told Abra, was hurt by her action, especially since he had put a note inside asking Abra to marry him some day. Cal told Aaron he could borrow his rifle to use on Abra, but Aaron simply said that that Cal did not have a rifle.
This chapter begins to point out the great differences between Caleb and Aaron. Aaron is a gentle boy who does not really understand his mysterious brother. When he sees an anthill, he lies down beside it to inspect the workings of the colony. In contrast, Caleb kicks the anthill, watching in delight as the ants flee in panic. He must always change or control the world. He also feels he must control people, especially his brother. When Aaron shoots a rabbit, Caleb is jealous and tries to bargain with him for part of the credit, saying that Aaron shot the rabbit with an arrow that belonged to him. Caleb is also jealous when Abra immediately takes a liking to Aaron, reaching out to comfort him. Cal tries to win her favor by offering to give her the dead rabbit, which really belongs to Aaron and is not Calís to give away. When Abra says she does not want a dead rabbit, the sensitive Aaron suggests that he put it in a box for her so she can give it a proper funeral. Abra is touched and accepts his offer. In response, Cal grows increasingly jealous and decides he must punish Abra for liking Aaron more. When his brother goes away to prepare the rabbit, Cal is cruel to Abra, laughing at her age and shocking her by saying that he and Aaron are regularly beaten by Lee, which is a total falsehood. He also tells her that Aaron will put a snake in the rabbit box, and the snake will bite her when she opens the lid. Sadly, Abra believes Caleb and throws the box out on to the road, with Aaronís love note inside. The introduction of Abra Bacon adds a new element to the second-generation characters of the novel. It is clear that Steinbeck is building a new triangle, where Abra will be Aaronís love and Cal will be the jealous brother.
Steinbeck also continues to build on the Cain and Abel theme in this chapter. Aaron is the Abel character. Like Adam, he is gentle, innocent, and trusting. Abra responds to his kindness and reaches out to him. In contrast, Caleb is the Cain character. Like Charles and Cathy, he is mercurial and manipulative. Ironically, Cal needs Aaron, but also hates him.
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. 09 May 2017