"From his first memory, Cal craved warmth and affection." If Aaron had not been his brother, Cal probably would have had an easier time; but since everyone was drawn to Aaron naturally, Cal always felt himself an outsider. When he tried to imitate Aaron, people thought he was being insincere and laughed at him. To cover up his hurt and loneliness, Cal built up a wall of self-sufficiency. But sometimes he would sit at his father's feet, hoping that Adam's hand would stoke his hair.
Cal often wandered out in the night by himself. When the night constables saw him, they left him alone since he had no record of truancy or misbehavior. One night Cal ran into Rabbit Holman, one of the ranchers who owned land near his father's ranch. Rabbit was drinking to celebrate the sale of some of his land. Cal helped him get drunker, hoping that Rabbit would tell him more about his mother. Rabbit began to tell Cal about Kate's place. He then led Cal there. Cal was able to get inside because the place was crowded, and he was very tall, appearing older than his age. He was sickened by what he saw.
Cal usually kept everything to himself, but after his visit to Kate's house, he felt the need to talk. He went to Lee's room and told him he knew about his mother. Cal asked Lee why Adam had lied. Lee explained that Adam wanted to protect his sons from being hurt. Lee then confirmed the story Cal had heard about Kate shooting Adam. He added that Kate was angry because Adam was trying to force her to stay on the farm. Lee then said that Kate was not like other people. Filled with heartless hatred, she seemed to be missing a conscience. Cal said he feared that he had his mother in him.
Lee explained that after Kate left, Adam had died in spirit and was only recently becoming himself again. As Lee talked, he could see Cal's face growing softer. The boy even confessed that he loved his father dearly. Lee said that Adam was a good man, "maybe the best man I've ever known." He also told Cal that he had freedom to choose his path in life. He could become good like Adam or evil like Kate. Before Cal left, Lee warned him, "Whatever you do, it will be you who do it--not your mother."
Cal had mixed feelings about his discovery of his mother. He felt powerful in his possession of the truth, but he also felt pained by it. The knowledge seemed to drive him in cycles. For a while, Cal would be dedicated to purity. He would then cave in to sin, which would make him feel guilty. Then he would dedicate himself to purity again for a short period of time. The cycle repeated itself over and over.
Cal's new knowledge also made him look at his father in a new light and love him more. For the first time ever, he saw Adam's frustration and loneliness. He wanted to reach out and protect him. Once he walked in on his father when he was bathing and saw the scar on Adam's shoulder. When he asked him where he had gotten it, he saw Adam reaching for a lie. Adam covered the truth by telling Cal he had been in the Indian wars and that one day he would tell Cal about it. Cal understood the explanation, but he wished he could tell his father is was okay to tell him the truth. Cal also wished he could tell Aaron the truth, but he knew his brother could not handle the news.
Aaron was also caught up in change, for he discovered religion. He was confirmed in the Episcopal Church and joined the choir. He also decided he wanted to become a minister. When he told Abra he wanted to remain celibate, she agreed, knowing he would outgrow this phase. Her plan was to marry him and have his children.
In this chapter, Cal's character is deepened in a way that expertly ties the plot to the Cain and Abel theme, which has been developing throughout the novel. When Cal learns the bitter truth about his mother, he fears that he will turn out evil, just like Cathy and Cain. Lee, however, explains to Cal that he has freedom of choice. If he desires, he can conquer sin and become an Abel character like his father. Just because he has Kate's blood, he does not have to be like her. Since Cal longs for love and acceptance, is devoted to Adam, and refrains from telling Aaron the truth about their mother, Steinbeck offers hope that the boy can triumph over evil.
Aaron continues to develop as the good twin. He finds religion, is confirmed as an Episcopalian, joins the church choir, decides he wants to become a minister, and promises to stay celibate. Abra, hoping that he is just going through a phase, still believes she will marry Aaron and bear his children. She does, however, resent the minister who has encouraged Aaron in his religious fervor.
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