HomeLiterature Study GuidesEast Of EdenPart 1 Chapters 10 11 Summary

East of Eden | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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East of Eden | Part 1, Chapters 10–11 | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 10

Charles and Adam Trask begin to live together again, but the peace doesn't last. Adam doesn't want to farm and Charles does, so their desires clash, right down to whether or not to use a match to start the woodstove. Charles is miserly even though they are now rich, and his penny-pinching annoys Adam. Adam starts traveling for months at a time in between periods of living with Charles on the farm, to keep the peace, but he always returns.

Part 1, Chapter 11

Charles respects Adam more when he finds out Adam was in jail and on a chain gang for vagrancy after serving 10 years in the military, but he still finds himself unable to tolerate Adam's differences at home. Just when Adam finally decides he will go to California and start over, Cathy Ames shows up on their doorstep, a mess of blood, dirt, and hair.

Adam and Charles take her in and clean her up. Adam takes care of Cathy, who he believes has lost her memory about what happened to her. He falls in love with her, which is exactly what she wants him to do, because she realizes he will support and protect her. She is safe from Mr. Edwards if she stays here. Charles, however, doesn't believe her story, sensing Cathy is a liar who will do anything to survive and siphon money from others. But to Adam Cathy is angelic and sweet, a beautiful force of good in his life, and he is happy for the first time in his life. When Cathy is nearly well except for a scar that will always mark her forehead, Charles insists Adam make her leave the house because she is evil, especially after a neighbor discovers money and clothes near where she was beaten. But Adam's response is to take her to the justice of the peace and marry her. Cathy knows Charles doesn't like her and may even recognize her from his visits to prostitutes at Mr. Hallam's inn; furthermore, she sees the evil streak in Charles and fears him. She tells Adam she can't perform her wifely duties, that is, have sex, until she is well but then proceeds to drug Adam on their wedding night and have sex with Charles instead.

Analysis

Charles and Adam Trask are at each other's throats again in this section, but they keep trying to push back to the level of understanding and love they had reached by talking about their father together. The battle of good versus evil is constant between them. Charles pulls back every time he is about to say something horrible about Adam, showing the respect he has gained for Adam, but he makes it clear that he and Adam can't live together. Charles fights off his most evil impulses because he loves Adam, reflecting the first example of the motif of timshel, or having a choice about which path to follow, as Charles controls his impulses.

The appearance of Cathy turns the Trasks' lives upside down. Adam, desperately wanting to be mothered, becomes motherly himself, taking care of Cathy, and falls for her lies and manipulations. Charles knows she is lying and wants her gone, but he sees himself in Cathy, with her propensity to do evil and her self-centeredness. Charles's good side is what makes him try to protect Adam from Cathy, but it is too late. Cathy's rejections of Adam's physical attentions just make him believe she is more angelic. When she shows up in Charles's bed, Charles not only is not surprised but goes along with her plan and has sex with her. He feels sorry for Adam but not sorry enough to fight off lust.

The battle between good and evil is set up with the sexual interaction between Cathy and Charles. The consequences of this interaction spur even bigger challenges for Charles to remain good and for Cathy to outdo her malice, which she does with her usual flair of waiting until the right moment to strike. Adam has inherited his mother's persistence of belief that leads to his own destruction. Cathy, through her first encounter with fear, has earned a permanent scar, a mark on her forehead and, like Cain (and Charles), is never harmed by anyone again, except for herself.

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