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Literature Study GuidesEast Of EdenPart 4 Chapters 34 36 Summary

East of Eden | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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East of Eden | Part 4, Chapters 34–36 | Summary



Part 4, Chapter 34

The narrator reveals his thoughts about what people really want, which is to be loved, and evil becomes the result of trying shortcuts to love. Every story, he says, is about the struggle between good and evil inside each person. Evil keeps coming up, and we keep having to tamp it down with the good that is always in us. The best lives, according to the narrator, are those whose deaths bring "no pleasure to the world."

Part 4, Chapter 35

Adam buys and moves with his family into Dessie's house in Salinas, where the boys enter seventh grade at the school Abra attends. Aron soon discovers his delicate good looks make him a target for bullies, but the boys in the school realize just as quickly that Aron is not to be messed with, as he is a strong and fierce fighter. Cal is feared but respected, popular but with no real friends. Lee decides to leave to open his bookstore in San Frqncisco, but this idea lasts only briefly because Lee discovers that without Adam and the boys he is lonelier than he has ever been in his life.

Part 4, Chapter 36

Aron follows Abra home, and they end up under a willow tree together where she plays mother to him and begins to ask questions about his not having a mother. He accuses her of being like Cal and decides he doesn't want to be there with her because she wants him to tell her secrets. She tells him her secret: she heard her parents say his mother is alive. They call each other husband and wife as they leave. When Aron goes home, he is oddly gentle with his father, though he knows he has been lied to about his mother.


Steinbeck starts the section with one of the major themes of the novel: the fight between good and evil can occur between groups of people, but individuals wage the same internal battles. The death of Samuel Hamilton has brought sadness and despair to so many people; his life is a strong example of the kind of life Steinbeck says is worth living. Lee's sense he can't leave Adam and the boys because he is too lonely without them shows Adam is one of those people who will bring despair when he leaves the world.

Aron and Abra pick up where they left off, but Abra pushes the mother line of questioning too far, which, Aron notes, is much like the treatment Cal inflicts to upset him. Indeed Abra has a mean streak in her, and sometimes her better nature doesn't win. However, she thinks her secret is something Aron will want to hear. In fact, the knowledge that his mother is alive causes problems for Aron and his relationship with his father and Lee because, if true, it means they lied and he can't trust them. However, if Aron believes their lie, he has a problem with Abra. His decision to go with Abra's version of the truth reflects his trust in her as his future wife. It is also the beginning of his perception of Abra as angelic and perfect, neatly pushing away the notion she can be as mean as Cal.

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