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East of Eden | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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East of Eden | Characters

Character Description
Adam Trask With a great deal of money inherited from his father (who likely stole it), trusting yet distant Adam Trask is a wealthy man, whose life is marked by sibling rivalry and an inability to judge character. Read More
Samuel Hamilton An Irish immigrant, Samuel Hamilton is loved and respected in his community; clever, wise, perceptive, and inventive, he nevertheless has a poor head for business and earns little money despite his inventions and hard work. Read More
Charles Trask Charles Trask is a volatile, often violent man, whose jealousy of his half-brother and unrequited love for their father direct his life. Read More
Cathy From an early age Cathy, known later as Kate, is an evil manipulator of men; she becomes an arsonist, murderer, prostitute, and madam who drugs her employees and blackmails her clients with revealing photographs. Read More
Cal Cal (Caleb) is a hard-working young man with a cruel side he inflicts on his brother out of jealousy and attributes to his mother, although he works to fight it. Read More
Aron Gentle, unworldly, favored, and easily hurt, Aron idealizes the woman he loves to the point of not really knowing her, escaping first into the ministry and then to the military. Read More
Lee A Chinese American born in a railroad camp, the philosophically minded Lee works for Adam Trask and raises the Trask twins; he spends much of his time reading or counseling people around him. Read More
Abra Abra is a girl, and later, young woman, who enjoys the role of motherly girlfriend until she realizes that Aron, her boyfriend, sees her as an ideal taken to an extreme in his religious quest for purity. Realizing she is fallible and not what Aron has created, she senses more kinship with Cal and falls in love with him.
Alex Alex is the loyal cook at Faye's brothel.
Alice Alice is an unsuspecting prostitute at Faye's brothel.
Mr. Ames Cathy Ames's fearful father suspects his daughter is dishonest and manipulative and was not taken advantage of, but he falls victim to the house fire she sets.
Mrs. Ames Cathy Ames's fearful, meek mother believes her daughter's behavior results from sexual trauma; afraid of Cathy, she dies along with her husband in the fire her daughter sets.
Mr. Bacon Abra Bacon's father is a cold man, who tries unsuccessfully to hide a second, illegal life of embezzlement from his company; his love for his family is questionable.
Mrs. Bacon The controlling Mrs. Bacon dresses her daughter, Abra, in doll-like clothes and directs her life, while trying to hide her husband's criminal activity.
Bordoni A savvy Swiss immigrant, Bordoni sells his farmland to Adam Trask.
Carlton Carlton is the telegraph operator in Connecticut who tells Charles how to wire money to Adam.
Cotton Eye Cotton Eye, blind and addicted to drugs, plays the piano at Faye's brothel.
Sergeant Axel Dane An army recruiter in San Jose, Axel Dane notices Aron's beauty, accepts the boy's age statement, recruits him, and hopes he survives.
Doxology Doxology is Samuel Hamilton's faithful old horse.
Mr. Edwards Mr. Edwards, seemingly a model citizen but in fact the whoremaster for whom Cathy works, falls in love with Cathy, who manipulates him into emotional distress that allows her to steal from him. When she drunkenly attacks him and reveals the truth about the house fire in which her parents died, he beats her almost to the point of death.
Mrs. Edwards A bland, religious woman, who serves as a cover for her husband, though she doesn't know what he really does, Mrs. Edwards is content to go along with her role, occasionally sleeping with her husband out of duty.
Ethel A former prostitute at Faye's brothel, Ethel tries to blackmail Kate by telling her she has found the bottle of poison Kate used to kill Faye; however, Ethel is not savvy enough to get away with her attempt and is found dead in Santa Cruz.
Julius Euskadi Of Basque ancestry, Julius Euskadi is a wealthy friend of Horace Quinn's who accompanies him to interview Adam Trask after the shooting.
Eva A timid prostitute at Kate's brothel, Eva opens the door to Adam Trask and leads him to Kate.
Faye The maternal, gullible madam at the Salinas brothel where Cathy becomes Kate and resumes her career, Faye falls prey to Kate's manipulation, willing her the business and dying from poison Kate gives her.
Mr. Fenchel A German immigrant, Mr. Fenchel is a long-time tailor in Salinas; during the war residents taunt him and vandalize his home.
Georgia Georgia is a loyal prostitute at Faye's brothel.
Grace Grace is a trusting prostitute at Faye's brothel.
James Grew Having fared poorly at divinity studies, James Grew is a young Latin teacher at the high school Cathy Ames attends; fooled and seduced by Cathy's charms, he becomes ill and in desperation shows up late one night at the Ames house before killing himself.
Mr. Hallam Mr. Hallam runs an inn in Connecticut where Mr. Edwards sends his prostitutes for two weeks at a time.
Dessie Hamilton Lively and funny, Dessie Hamilton is the third of Samuel Hamilton's daughters and most like him, running a dress shop that is more like a social club; after a bad marriage, she returns to live with her brother Tom and dies of a stomach illness.
George Hamilton George Hamilton, Samuel Hamilton's oldest son, is a polite, well-behaved man who marries and becomes an insurance salesman; said to do no wrong, ever.
Joseph Hamilton Sensitive, creative, and somewhat lazy, Joseph Hamilton, the youngest of the Hamilton sons, is protected by Liza; he does not like farming or much other work and goes to college, eventually succeeding in advertising.
Liza Hamilton Samuel Hamilton's wife, Liza Hamilton is a small, practical, respectful Irish woman with deep religious faith and absolute certainty that she knows what is best; she is usually correct in her assessments of people.
Lizzie Hamilton Lizzie Hamilton, Samuel Hamilton's eldest daughter, has a negativity unlike her siblings, likes to socialize, doesn't want people to know she is not rich, marries young, and rarely returns home.
Mollie Hamilton Samuel Hamilton's youngest daughter, Mollie Hamilton is a violet-eyed beauty who marries young and moves to San Francisco.
Olive Hamilton Olive Hamilton, the narrator's mother and the Hamiltons' fourth daughter, is a hard worker, a teacher, and a force to be reckoned with, like her mother.
Tom Hamilton Tom Hamilton, the Hamiltons' third son, is a poet and dreamer who never finds his niche in the world; blaming himself for Dessie's death, he kills himself.
Una Hamilton Una Hamilton, Samuel Hamilton's second and favorite daughter, is a beautiful, frail woman who marries a strange film technician, moves to Oregon, and ends up shipped home in a coffin.
Will Hamilton Will Hamilton, the second Hamilton son, is an entrepreneur who sells cars and goes into business with Cal Trask to buy futures in beans, making a large profit.
Chief Heiserman Chief Heiserman is the night constable in Salinas who observes Cal walking at night, speaks to the truant officer, and learns Cal is a good student.
Rabbit Holman Rabbit Holman, a carpenter, goes for a drink with Cal and drunkenly reveals that Cal's mother is the notorious Kate, the madam of a disreputable whorehouse.
Martin Hopps Shy Martin Hopps is drafted to go to war and the first person in Salinas to be killed; his death enrages Olive Hamilton.
Corporal Kemp An army recruiter in San Jose, Corporal Kemp is on duty when Aron arrives to enlist.
Louis Lippo Louis Lippo is the friendly neighbor who introduces Adam to Samuel to help him find water on the Sanchez land.
Hal Mahler Hal Mahler owns a pool hall in Santa Cruz where Ethel eventually ends up.
Old Martin Old Martin, who sweeps the streets in Salinas, would like to drive a garbage truck.
Agnes Morrison A frequent customer at Dessie's dress shop in Salinas, Agnes Morrison thrived on Dessie's good humor and funny stories.
Clarence Morrison The proprietor of a dry goods shop in Salinas, he and his family would be delighted for days when Agnes returned from a fitting at Dessie's.
Crazy Alf Nichelson Crazy Alf Nichelson, a handyman, gossips to Joe Valery that Kate acquired Faye's place through suspicious means.
Oscar Noble Oscar Noble, a police officer, tries to take Joe Valery in to be questioned and ends up having to shoot him dead.
Alex Platt Alex Platt reports finding the oak money box and the other implements Mr. Edwards left behind when he nearly killed Cathy.
Bill Primus Bill Primus is a Santa Cruz police officer who tells Joe Valery that Ethel has been found dead in a compromising state.
Horace Quinn Somewhat unwillingly Horace Quinn rises from deputy to sheriff and is horrified by the story behind Cathy's manipulation of Adam.
Ralph The bouncer at Kate's brothel, Ralph refuses to beat Adam Trask when he visits Kate to find out about her.
Mr. Rolf Mr. Rolf, the young and inexperienced Episcopal priest who mentors Aron, sees him as his "spiritual son."
Roy A Ford mechanic, Roy, who asks to be called Joe, comes to the Trask home to teach Adam how to start and run his new car.
Henry Stanton Henry Stanton becomes friends with Adam Trask.
John Steinbeck John Steinbeck, the author of the novel, is also the narrator, the grandson of Samuel Hamilton, and an avid observer of both the natural world and human nature.
Mary Steinbeck Mary Steinbeck is the narrator's sister who wishes she were a boy.
Therese Therese, who works at Kate's brothel, mails the letter Kate writes in which she reveals Joe's identity to the police.
Dr. Tilson Dr. Tilson, an upstanding doctor, threatens to jail Cathy when he discovers she has tried to give herself an abortion by using a knitting needle.
Alice Trask The stepmother of Adam and mother of Charles, Alice is 17 when she marries Cyrus Trask, weeks after his first wife's death; Alice treats the boys equally, does what she is told, speaks only when spoken to, and believes the presents Adam leaves her are left by Charles.
Cyrus Trask Father of favored son Adam and jealousy-ridden Charles, the enigmatic Cyrus Trask is a former soldier who lost his leg early in the Civil War and whose first wife committed suicide after contracting gonorrhea from him; he lies perpetually about his importance as a mere private, but his obsession with the war leads him to develop expertise in military strategy, writing articles in his spare time, going to Washington as a military adviser, and eventually leaving a fortune to his sons.
Mrs. Trask Mrs. Trask, whose first name is not mentioned, is Cyrus Trask's religious first wife, the mother of Adam and the ill-fated recipient of Cyrus's gonorrhea, which leads her to commit suicide when Adam is a baby.
Trixie Trixie is a loyal prostitute at Faye's brothel.
Joe Valery The calculating Joe Valery is also Joseph Venuta, chain gang escapee, and Kate's assistant, who tries to blackmail her but gets shot as he flees the police.
Dr. Wilde As Dr. Wilde tends Faye during her illness, he does not realize Kate is poisoning her by using some of the same medications he has prescribed for Kate.
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