HomeLiterature Study GuidesEast Of EdenPart 3 Chapters 2325 Summary

East of Eden | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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East of Eden | Part 3, Chapters 23–25 | Summary

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Summary

Part 3, Chapter 23

Samuel's favorite daughter, Una, left town to marry a film technician who was trying to invent color film. The Hamiltons never heard of any problems from Una, but she never visited. Now she has come home in a coffin, after living in poverty. Samuel is devastated. Another daughter, lively and upbeat Dessie, Tom's favorite sister, is living unhappily in Salinas in a bad marriage, a situation that angers Tom. When the family gathers for Thanksgiving in 1911, the children and their spouses notice Samuel has suddenly become old. They formulate a plan to get him and Liza to leave the ranch and visit each of them for a month. Their plan works, and Tom stays behind to take care of the ranch.

Part 3, Chapter 24

Before Samuel leaves, he goes to visit Adam and Lee. At dinner they talk about Cain and Abel again, and Lee tells a story about Bible study and the verse "thou mayest," timshel in Hebrew, that convinced him evil and sin don't have to be passed on. A person can choose and control what he does. On the way out, Samuel lectures Adam about getting on with his life and gives him some "medicine" in the form of telling him about Kate's depraved brothel. He tells him about the people who go there to have violence inflicted on them and the way Kate takes young, healthy women and turns them into drug addicts to get them to tolerate these acts. Adam runs off, horrified. Lee is surprised Samuel has the courage to reveal this information, but Samuel says it is his time now to leave and enjoy his children's attention. He adds he had to take the risk to get Adam to "live or get off the pot," meaning get up, stop thinking about Cathy, and find someone new.

Part 3, Chapter 25

Samuel dies during his trip. After the funeral Adam gets drunk and goes to talk with Kate, to see what she has turned out to be. She shows him photographs of community leaders engaging in sadomasochistic acts with the prostitutes in her brothel. She insults him and tries to seduce him all at once, telling him she slept with his brother and the children may be Charles's. Adam tells her he doesn't care anymore, and at one time he really loved her but now sees what she is. Kate desperately tries to get Adam to stay; when he moves to leave, she tries to get her guard, Ralph, to stomp in his face. Ralph won't do it because Adam is not fighting him, so Adam is allowed to leave. He smiles at Kate before he leaves, as if he is leaving a memory. Kate is "desolate," unable to believe what she has just glimpsed and lost.

Analysis

The father-son and father-daughter relationships are explored again in these chapters, as Samuel becomes an old man in response to losing his favorite daughter, Una, and having learned of her suffering. Dessie's misery also has a big effect on Tom, and Samuel has to care for his son again to get him back on track. But when the adult children see Samuel on Thanksgiving, they assume the parenting role, making Samuel do what is best for him before he dies. Of course to make Samuel relinquish his patriarchal role, they have to be devious, but Samuel, because he is an attentive father, is aware of what they are up to.

Samuel takes one last opportunity to be a father to someone, however, by lecturing Adam and revealing the truth. He knows the only way Adam can shake the evil that is Cathy is for him to witness it. The recurring motif of timshel, introduced earlier conceptually, is explained here using the exact Hebrew word for "thou mayest." Lee says that knowing he had a choice about how to act turned his life around. Steinbeck has all of the characters in this novel make choices to change their paths. Samuel takes on this concept by leaving to be with his children, choosing not to keep working on the ranch, and accepting his children's care. Lee's advice to Samuel and to Adam is a fatherly reminder to think before acting and another example of timshel. In addition, at the Trask home Samuel notes that the 11-year-old twins now remind him of Cain and Abel.

With Samuel's death Adam heeds his friend's advice to rid his mind of Cathy. The act of going to see Cathy is Adam's successful effort to fight evil with good, their encounter being a direct confrontation between righteousness and depravity. If Kate is protected by the mark of Cain—and by the law—Adam is protected by his innate goodness and disgust for what he sees. When confronted with the reality of Kate, Adam can't believe what Cathy has become, and her efforts to seduce him are no good because he is impervious. Steinbeck uses this opportunity to show how much each of them has changed—Adam in his emotions and Cathy in her physical appearance and ability to manipulate him. This is not the Cathy he remembers, and the reality check is an excellent weapon with which to fight off her evil intentions. When her attempts are foiled because even her guard won't beat him up, she is "desolate" because she finally hates Adam, and hate is a version of caring, or feeling.

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