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Free Study Guide for East of Eden by John Steinbeck

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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES


CHAPTER 40


Summary


Part 1

After Cal left, Kate felt very nervous. She thought about Charles Trask and Samuel Hamilton, both of whom had recognized the truth about her. As she felt the capsule of morphine around her neck, Kate repeatedly said Calís last words to her, "You are afraid." The words bothered her greatly.


Part 2

Soon after Kate had collected the money Charles had left her, she began to feel pain. Her hands grew worse each day.

One day Kate was visited by Ethel, a woman who worked for her at the time she was working for Faye. Ethel looked as though she were living on the edge of poverty. She explained that after Kate fired her, she never recovered. Kate offered her forty dollars, but Ethel said she had hoped for much more. She then proceeded to blackmail Kate. She told Kate that on the night Faye died, she saw Kate go out back and bury something. The next morning she went and dug up the crushed bottles and dropper, which she still had in her possession. Ethel then demanded that Kate give her a hundred dollars a month. Kate agreed to send her the money at the first of each month.

The next morning Ethel was in front of the judge, charged with theft. The judge told her this was one too many times that she had been in trouble. He ordered the sheriff to drive her out of the county. Knowing that Kate had her hand in this, Ethel told the judge that she had been framed, but he did not believe her.


Part 3

At first, Kate was not disturbed by Ethelís visit, but she gradually became restless about it. She worried that Ethel might tell her story to others and give the bottles to someone else. Kate also began to think about Charles Trask and felt his presence with her. She began to wonder if she was safe and grew afraid to go outside.


Notes

Kateís fear and anxiety, which stem from her thoughts about the past, increase to the point that she seldom goes outside. The visits from Ethel and Cal only make things worse for her. Even the morphine does not dull her fear and pain. It is appropriate that the evil character in the book is degenerating as the good characters are flourishing. Steinbeck is making a clear statement, through Adam, Aaron, and Cal, that good does triumph over evil.

It is also ironic that Kate, the master manipulator, is manipulated by Ethel. Kate, however, has the last word when she uses her influence to have Ethel arrested and driven out of the county. It may be her last hurrah.


CHAPTER 41


Part 1

This brief part announces that war was imminent. Prices went up. People were nervous and excited.


Part 2

Cal told Aaron he should try to finish high school early so he could go away to college. Aaron was at first unsure, but Cal convinced him that he would do all he could to pay Aaronís way. Aaron was especially eager to go to college because he was ashamed of their fatherís failure and hated being made fun of in the town. That night, Cal asked his father if he could go out to the ranch and look around. Lee later asked him what he was planning. When Aaron explain, Lee offered Cal five thousand dollars if he needed it.


Part 3

Cal went to see Will Hamilton. Will liked Cal immediately for his honesty, astuteness, and directness. Cal asked Willís advice about making money. He told Will he wanted to make twenty or thirty thousand dollars, enough money to give his father what he had lost. When Will asked him why he wanted to give the money to Adam, Cal answered that he had not always been a good son, but his father had always been good. Will asked Cal if he was trying to buy his fatherís love. Cal admitted that he was. Will thought he had never met anyone quite so open and honest as Cal.

Suddenly he thought of Cal as the son he had never had. He suggested he and Cal take a ride together. They drove out to the Trask place and parked at the edge of the land. He asked Cal if he wanted a partner. Cal said he did, but he admitted he could only raise five thousand dollars to invest. Will explained he was interested in the farming of beans and wanted to raise the price of beans from three cents a pound to ten cents.


Notes

In this chapter, Cal puts his plans into action. He convinces Aaron to finish high school early in order to go away to college sooner. He promises Aaron he will help pay for his education. Then, Cal talks to Will Hamilton and asks his advice about making money. He is eager to make a large sum so that he can give Adam the amount that he has lost on the lettuce. Will is so impressed with Calís good sense that he offers to be his partner. As always, Will is the ultimate businessman. He sees a way to make a profit off the scarcity of the wartime economy. Since beans are in demand, he will buy them at a cheap price from the local farmers and sell them high.


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