Part 1

Joe Valery had a list of things he hated. Since he had been abused and neglected as a child, he had developed a sense of the world as a place of angry conspiracy against him. He felt that the world was full of fools and con artists, and he especially hated women. When he went to work for Kate, he waited for her to show her weakness so he could strike out at her; but she was never weak around him. As a result, he was convinced that Kate was extraordinarily powerful and intelligent. Since he admired and feared her, he did everything she asked of him.

Part 2

Kate never slept well because of the arthritic pain in her hands. She often spent her nights thinking of all the things she had experienced in life. When she thought about Faye, she had no remorse for having killed her. She did, however, worry about Ethel and wonder where she had gone. She wished she could hire a private investigator to find her, but then two people would know her secret about Faye. She decided she would have Joe Valery search for Ethel. Once he found her, she would take care of Ethel once and for all.

Kate grew more and more fearful about life, even distrusting the girls in her house of prostitution. As she became more nervous, she relied more and more on Joe. She knew that she could control him, for she knew that he had escaped from San Quentin prison and could hold that over his head.

One morning when Joe brought Kate her breakfast, he told her about a man who had spent seven hundred dollars on prostitutes the house the night before. Kate told him he should have gotten the man's name. Kate then offered Joe five hundred dollars if he would go and find Ethel. She also hinted that she knew about his prison escape.

Part 3

Joe traveled by train to Monterey, where he took a room. He worried over the fact that Kate knew he was wanted man. He thought perhaps Ethel would be his way to outmaneuver Kate. The next day he traveled to Watsonville and Santa Cruz, searching for Ethel. He learned that Ethel had been found dead in the water. Rumor had it that she had been taken on board by a sardine crew and then dumped in the ocean. Before returning to Kate, Joe spent another night in Santa Cruz plotting his course of action.

Part 4

Kate felt better because she had new medicine for her hands. When she looked at herself in the mirror, she thought she looked beautiful, as if she had aged little over the years; she believed only the inside was damaged. She thought about her sons. She felt Aaron, with his angelic face, was clean and bright, but she worried about Cal because he reminded her of Charles. Since she felt he had outdone her, she would like to teach Cal a lesson. Kate thought she might give a party for her sons before she left town. Then she decided she did not want Aaron to know about her. She wanted to meet him only after she was set up in New York as a respectable woman.

Kate thought about Ethel. She was eager to get her back so she could slowly kill her and not worry any more. She would make her eat an excess of fat-heavy foods and deprive her of exercise until she passed away. When Joe came in with her breakfast, she asked him about his trip. He told her he had not been able to find Ethel; but he heard a rumor that she was planning to come back to Salinas in secret. Kate was so startled by the news that she lost control, letting the fear show in her face. Joe's plan was working.


Kate still believes she is physically beautiful and admires herself in the mirror. In truth, she is a totally despicable and evil character. She is completely remorseless about having killed Faye and thinks with relish of the way she will get rid of Ethel. She even wants to get back at Cal, her own son, for she feels he has outwitted her. She also plans to trick Aaron, by meeting him only after she has set herself up as a respectable woman in New York.

Kate may have met her match in Joe Valery. He sees an opportunity in the Ethel situation to outmaneuver Kate. When he learns that Ethel has been found dead in the water, he sets his own plan in motion. He returns and tells his boss that he has heard that Ethel is planning a return visit to Salinas. The news visibly upsets Kate.

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East of Eden Free BookNotes Summary-John Steinbeck
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