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Free Study Guide for East of Eden by John Steinbeck

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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES


CHAPTER 26


Summary

Adam took the train back to King City. Although he was feeling dazed, he also felt ecstatic and freed. He went to see Will Hamilton and talked about buying a car. Will had become so engrossed in making money that he had lost his feelings, only pretending to mourn his fatherís death. After arranging to buy a car, Adam went home and noticed the land for the first time in years. He asked Lee to make tea and talk to him. He explained how he had seen Kate and felt freed from her hold over him. He also said he now wanted to do something with his land and to get to know his sons. Lee told him he planned to leave his employ so he could fulfill his dream of opening a bookstore in San Francisco. Adam asked him to please wait a while, and Lee agreed.


Notes

It is clear that Adam is a changed man, freed from Cathyís hold over him. When he returns home, he notices his land for the first time in years and wants to do something productive with it. He also announces his plan to get to know his sons, asking Leeís help. Lee agrees to help Adam for awhile, but he tells him that his eventual plan is to move to San Francisco and open a bookstore. In presenting Lee, Steinbeck does not rely on oriental stereotypes, as most of his contemporary European American writers did. Instead, Steinbeck endows Lee feelings, hopes, history, and wisdom.


CHAPTER 27


Summary


Part 1

Aaron was a kind, handsome, and straightforward boy. In contrast, Caleb, who looked like Adam, had watchful eyes and strange ways. The twins were hunting rabbits with bows and arrows with feathers taped to their heads. When Aaron shot a rabbit, Cal started bargaining with his brother about who would get credit for it. He told Aaron they should share the credit since it was his arrow that Aaron had shot with. Aaron was confused by Calís argument and did not agree with the bargain. In truth, Aaron was often puzzled by his brother, for Cal tried to imply things and did not make himself clear.

Caleb looked at the land and told Aaron that one day their father would die and the land would be theirs. Aaron did not seem interested. Caleb then asked Aaron where he thought their mother was. Aaron said she was in heaven, repeating the story that Adam had told him. Cal said he heard men at the store in town talking about her, saying she was in Salinas, but Aaron did not believe this. When Cal insisted she was alive, Aaron became very upset, jumping on Cal in anger. Suddenly, Caleb, showing signs of his motherís manipulation, realized that he had a tool to use against his brother.

When it started to rain, the boys ran. After getting soaked, they slowed to a walk and laughed at their wetness.


Part 2

When they got to their house, the twins saw that they had visitors. Once inside, they heard the voices of a woman and a girl. Since they were rarely around females, both Aaron and Cal were excited. They changed clothes and went shyly to the living room, where they were introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Bacon and Abra. He was the county supervisor. When they mentioned leaving, Adam insisted they stay for tea.


Part 3

Mr. Bacon asked Adam why he did not work his land. Adam explained that he had inherited money from his father and could afford not to farm his land. Mr. Bacon suggested that Adam rent his farm out and move to the city, where he could send his sons to public school. Adam felt like Mr. Bacon was giving unwanted advice and let his mind wander. He thought about his brother Charles and decided to take his sons to visit him. When the Bacons asked him what he was thinking, he told them he was thinking of his brother whom he had not contacted for years. Mr. and Mrs. Bacon looked at each other as if Adam were disturbed and prepared to leave.


Part 4

As the adults talked, Abra, Cal, and Aaron were sent outside to play. The boys took her to the adobe Sanchez house, which their father had stopped renovating years before. Abra told Cal and Aaron that they could not be twins since they did not look alike. They told her that Lee had explained that if twins were from different eggs, they would look different. Abra thought this was a silly theory and made fun of them as hard-boiled eggs. She then showed off her superiority to the boys, saying she lived in Salinas and knew more than they did. When she saw Aaronís feelings were hurt, she felt touched and reached out to him. Cal, feeling jealous, said he would give her a rabbit they had shot that day. Aaron tried to interrupt and say it was his rabbit, but Cal told Abra she could take it home. When she said she did not want a dead rabbit, Aaron said he would put it in a nice box for her, and she could take it home and give it a funeral. Abra said she went to real funerals. When Aaron seemed hurt by her response, she again reached out to him and said she would take the rabbit if it was in a box.


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.


Notes

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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