HomeLiterature Study GuidesEast Of EdenPart 3 Chapters 2931 Summary

East of Eden | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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East of Eden | Part 3, Chapters 29–31 | Summary

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Summary

Part 3, Chapter 29

Adam Trask's Model T Ford arrives, and he has to hire a mechanic, Roy, who wants to be called Joe (and finds this enormously funny, for some reason) to teach him to run it. The machine is complex, and Adam, Lee, and the boys have to memorize the sequence of steps to start it. They drive into town, and at the post office Adam gets a letter informing him Charles has died and left him $100,000, half of which is for Cathy.

Part 3, Chapter 30

When they get home, Cal and Aron disobediently play in the car; Cal bets Aron his deer's leg whistle they will be sent to bed right after supper so the men can talk. Aron agrees reluctantly after Cal tells him if he doesn't bet, Cal will tell their father who stole his knife. The knife has not been stolen, but Aron understands the unspoken threat that Cal will do it and blame Aron. Instead of getting angry as Cal hopes, Aron is sad and asks Cal why he does such nasty things. Aron knows about the rabbit box trick, and Cal wants to tell him how he did it, but Aron simply wants to know why, and walks away. Cal is heartbroken and realizes the pointlessness of doing these things when he loves his brother and wants to protect him. At dinner Cal is correct, and Aron lays down the whistle, though Cal says he doesn't want it. Cal later eavesdrops on the adult conversation.

Adam tells Lee he doesn't know what to do about the money, but Lee doesn't believe him and asks when he is going to stop lying to himself and to Lee. Adam accuses Lee of being mean, but Lee is right; Adam isn't going to do anything but give the money to Cathy, no matter how morally reprehensible she is, regardless of whether she's a "whore in Salinas." As Cal hears all this, he realizes his mother is a prostitute and prays to stop being mean.

Part 3, Chapter 31

Adam goes to Kate's and tells her he is giving her half the money they have inherited. Kate is astonished and doesn't believe him. She keeps pressing him, asking him what he wants her to do or sign, but Adam just says the money is hers. He tells Kate she is only part human—she can't see the good around her like some people can't see the color green. He says it would be terrible if she knew it was there but couldn't see it. When he leaves, Kate is in tears, full of rage and, oddly for her, sorrow.

Analysis

The family outing in the Model T is blighted by the letter and distasteful position in which Adam finds himself, having to give half of Charles's money to Kate. Lee, as he has throughout the novel, is clear-eyed about the situation and knows exactly what Adam will do, because he knows Adam can't harm Kate. The relationship between Adam and Lee in this interaction is that of father and son, and the son is trying to simulate confusion. The theme of inheritance is back, with a large sum of money accompanied by an emotionally trying task, for in this novel no inheritance comes without an emotional price.

The interaction between the boys is an inheritance of a different kind. Cal, who has always been jealous of Aron, is mean to him again, but this time Cal is taken aback when instead of anger Aron asks why he does it. Aron knows more about his tricks than Cal has thought, and Cal has been exposed. Cal feels dirty now because he wants to be his brother's protector and loves Aron, yet he chases him away with meanness. Part of Cal's personality is inherited from Kate, but part of it is a result of his surroundings and Adam's lack of attention. Cal's decision to pray to stop being mean reflects the timshel motif, choosing to change. However, Cal is discovering emotional inheritances are difficult to shake.

Adam's decision to give the money to Kate is not surprising, given his nature and his former love for her, but he realizes Kate is so intrinsically depraved—as though she had a disease—she cannot see good. This realization makes his decision his own triumph of good over evil in himself and has nothing to do with Kate; it is the final cutoff from his emotional attachment to her. Kate's sadness and tears, along with her rage, show she is aware of missing some crucial part of being human, that of having to battle between good and evil. Although there is no battle in Kate, neither is there satisfaction.

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