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Literature Study GuidesEast Of EdenPart 3 Chapters 26 28 Summary

East of Eden | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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East of Eden | Part 3, Chapters 26–28 | Summary



Part 3, Chapter 26

Adam Trask is so elated to have rid himself of Cathy he decides he needs a car and goes to talk with Will Hamilton about buying one. Will puts him on the list for the first car available, though Will says Adam is the last person he would expect to buy one. When Adam comes home, he sits down with Lee to tell him he visited Cathy and wanted to tell Samuel. Adam has trouble realizing his confidant is gone; Lee is the only one left. Adam describes Kate, adding his disbelief that people could be like that. Lee tells him the trouble with "Occidentals" is the lack of devils to blame for evil manifesting itself in humans. Lee also describes Chinese funerals in which people scatter "devil papers" to confuse the devils. Adam tells Lee he feels free now and would like to meet a woman and start life over. Lee informs Adam he wants to leave and open a bookstore, an idea he shared with Samuel, who knew about his loneliness. Adam asks Lee to stay long enough to reacquaint him with his children. Lee goes to Samuel's grave to scatter papers, as Samuel has been like a father to him. Overcome with emotion, Adam leaves the room, realizing he, unlike Samuel, has not paid attention to who Lee really is.

Part 3, Chapter 27

Cal and Aron hunt together for a rabbit, and when they shoot one, Cal tells Aron he will share credit with him. Cal and Aron's interactions echo those of Adam and Charles, but Cal is less violent. Cal simply mistreats Aron emotionally. Although strong enough to beat up Cal, Aron calls him out on his cruelty instead. Aron is angelic looking, like his mother; Cal is the darker twin, looking more like Adam. When talking about their mother and the rumors of her real whereabouts he has heard, Cal realizes that Cathy is a weak spot with Aron, who believes her dead, as the boys have been told.

The twins run home to beat a storm and find Mr. and Mrs. Bacon and their daughter, Abra, have stopped in to take shelter. Mr. and Mrs. Bacon want to know why the boys aren't in school and suggest the schools in Salinas, where Abra goes, are better. Abra and the boys play together, and Abra discovers they don't have a mother. Aron says their mother is in heaven, and Abra takes the opportunity to play the mother with them. Abra is precocious and adult-like, and Aron falls in love with her. He wants to give her the rabbit and puts a marriage proposal in the box. While he goes to get the rabbit, Cal tells Abra there is something else in the box that will bite, so he knows she will never open it. When the Bacons leave, she throws the box out of the car window.

Part 3, Chapter 28

Adam tells the boys at dinner he thinks he wants to move them to Salinas to go to school. Aron tells his father he wants to marry Abra, so for Aron, Salinas is an appealing move. When the boys go to bed, Lee and Adam discuss whether or when to tell the boys about their mother and decide to keep it secret. Lee tells Adam the story of his birth in a railroad camp, where his mother had disguised herself as a man to work alongside his father. His mother was discovered, raped, and torn to bits by the men. His father lifted him out of her dead body. The men in the camp were mortified when they realized the child was his, and Lee was then raised by a camp full of remorseful prison "mothers." Adam decides to write his brother a letter and tells him in the letter he has always loved him because Charles is his brother.


The father-son relationship theme is present in several ways in this section. First Adam wants to tell Samuel what he has done to free himself, as Samuel asked, but Samuel is dead. This is the moment the death really hits Adam, as he discovers he really did rely on Samuel as a father figure. He also learns Lee relied on Samuel as well, though Adam didn't see it. Adam is again blind to what people are like and what they feel, and he is upset at having paid so little attention to Lee, who has taken care of him and his boys like a parent.

Lee's story about his birth reveals his own father's character and the great love he showed for Lee in the face of a tragic birth. Lee was raised by a camp of workers who were his "mother." His reference to the "terrible beauty" of that love makes Adam want to write to his brother, to whom he has not spoken in 10 years. Steinbeck shows through this passage the terrible beauty of the familial relationship; no matter how contentious, it always carries some form of attachment. This incident plays an important part in the father-son relationships as well as the brotherly ones in this novel. Steinbeck's intention is to show kindness wins out, no matter what horror led to it.

The story of Cal and Aron and the rabbit shows the contentious side of the brotherly relationship, the childish version of Cain and Abel. When Cal tries to sabotage Aron's situation with Abra, who he knows prefers Aron because of his blond hair and gentle good looks, he is trying to destroy that relationship. He does it at Abra's expense, too, and she begins to believe he hates her. Abra is curious about Cal but gravitates toward Aron because Aron reveres her as a mother figure. This reverence foreshadows their relationship as teenagers later in the novel. Cal's reaction to being called out on his meanness also foreshadows his fight to be good when he really wants to be evil. Cal loves Aron fiercely, but he also feels as though he can't help being cruel. His jealousy is difficult for him to control, just as Cain could not control his jealousy of Abel.

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