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Free Study Guide for East of Eden by John Steinbeck

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Part 1

The madam of the third house of prostitution in Salinas, who was called "The Nigger," died. At her funeral, Alf Nichelson, a handyman, saw Joe and asked him if he worked for Kate. When Joe said that he did, Alf wanted to become friends with him in order to learn more about Kate. He thought he might some day be able to bribe Adam with information about her. When Joe got back to the house, he learned that Kate had beaten Thelma for using vanilla extract as a substitute for alcohol in a recipe.

Part 2

When Joe went in to see Kate, he told her he had met someone who had seen Ethel. Kate was eager to hear more. She affected a soft voice and explained why she was so eager to find Ethel. She said she had falsely accused Ethel of something and had her run out of town. Now she felt guilty for her mistake and wanted to make it up to her. As Joe left her room, he decided he had given Kate too much credit for being intelligent.

Part 3

As Kate sat alone in her room, she felt the pain coming back and reached for the capsule of morphine around her neck. She then found Helen, one of the women who worked for her, and questioned her about who had been at "The Nigger’s" funeral. Helen named no one surprising.


Kate noted earlier that she could control Joe easily because he thought he was smart when he really was not. Although Joe believes he is outwitting Kate about Ethel, the reader realizes that she is really scheming to catch Joe in the act of betrayal, creating effective dramatic irony.

Kate also reveals that in spite of her evil ways, she never stoops to taking drugs. She wears the capsule of morphine in case she should ever need to use it on someone else or in case she wants to commit suicide.

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East of Eden Free BookNotes Summary-John Steinbeck

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