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Free Study Guide for East of Eden by John Steinbeck

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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES


CHAPTER 52


Summary


Part 1

The winter of 1917-1918 was a hard time for the Allied troops in the war. The Germans seemed to be invincible, and people in the U.S. started preparing themselves for defeat.


Part 2

Adam was troubled by his ill health. He had lost circulation in his hand and sat and rubbed it all day long. Since he could not focus his eyes, Lee had to read the paper for him. Adam also spent a lot of time thinking about Aaron. He wondered why he sneaked away to join the war and why he was not writing. Lee was concerned about Adam but knew that he needed time to absorb the shock of Aaron’s departure. Lee also missed Abra and did not understand why she had been staying away. He wanted Cal to tell her to come for a visit.


Part 3

Cal caught up with Abra the next day. She told him she had stayed away because he seemed mean and mad. When Cal said he was not mad any more, she asked him to take her books. She then showed him a letter Aaron had sent her. In it, Aaron said he did not feel clean and was not fit for her. He also warned her not to go near Adam.

Abra asked Cal why he hated her. Cal explained that he did not hate her but was afraid of her. She told him he did not need to be. He then told her he had taken Aaron to see their mother and that was why Aaron had joined the military. He explained how Aaron had acted when he met Kate. He also revealed that Aaron had hit him, knocked him down, and run away when they came out of the house of prostitution. Abra told Cal she had known about Kate for a long time.

Abra then told Cal that she did not love Aaron any more. She felt that he had never grown up and lived in a make-believe world. She knew Aaron could not stand to know the truth about his mother because it did not fit his fairy tale view of the world.

Before she left, Abra said that she would come to see Lee soon. She also told Cal she thought she loved him. Cal protested, saying he was not good enough for her. Abra said she loved him because he was not good.


Part 4

When she got to her house, Abra talked to her mother, who told Abra that her father was not feeling well and should not be disturbed. Abra had a feeling her father was not sick but was actually hiding. Judge Knudson had been trying to get in touch with him, but he had been saying he was too sick to talk. Abra went to her room and took the letters from Aaron from their hiding place. She hid them under her skirt, went to the kitchen, and burned them in the incinerator.


Notes

A shift has occurred in the way the reader is asked to identify with the twins. Previously, Aaron has been presented as the good twin in whom the reader saw hope; that hope has now shifted to Cal. It is, therefore, not surprising that Abra shifts her affection to Cal.

The character of Adam has remained more constant. He has never been able to see reality, as evidenced by his view of Cathy until the end. When he heard that she had died, he called her "poor darling," in spite of all the cruelty she had inflicted on him. In a similar manner, Adam is unable to see the real Aaron. He has idealized him and refuses to let go of the dream. When he compares Cal to the idealized Aaron, Cal falls far short. Aaron proves that he is much like his father. Adam always retreats from the truth when it is upsetting. Aaron reacts in the same way. When he finds out the truth about his mother, he cannot face the ugly reality; instead, he flees to the war. Adam has trouble accepting the truth of Aaron’s flight.

In the short section four, Abra believes her father is hiding from Judge Knudsen, indicating that he was probably one of the men in the photographs from whom Kate was extorting money.


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