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Literature Study GuidesEast Of EdenPart 4 Chapters 40 42 Summary

East of Eden | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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East of Eden | Part 4, Chapters 40–42 | Summary



Part 4, Chapter 40

Kate continues to hear in her mind Cal's words that she is afraid. And, in fact, she is; she carries a lethal dose of morphine in an amulet around her neck and has built a lean-to in which to hide. She begins to stay there more frequently after Ethel, a prostitute who used to work for Faye, arrives to tell Kate she found the discarded medicine bottle after Faye's death. For her silence, she demands Kate pay her $100 a month. Kate gives her $100, sending her away; then with Joe's complicity she has her arrested for theft, and the police dump Ethel at the county line. Soon after, Kate becomes more uneasy and fearful.

Part 4, Chapter 41

Cal and Aron discuss Aron's lingering shame over the lettuce incident, and Aron fears there isn't enough money for college. Cal asks what Abra will do if he goes off to college, and Aron answers Abra will do what he tells her. Cal offers to help if he takes the entrance exams early and passes. Cal asks to look around the ranch and tells Lee and Adam he wants to farm rather than go to college. Lee offers him a loan of $5,000.

Cal consults Will Hamilton, and they make a deal to buy bean futures cheaply and sell them higher. Cal uses the $5,000 to close the deal, wanting to make enough to give Adam back the money he lost. However, shrewd Will Hamilton realizes the coming of war will likely cause bean prices to rise dramatically and earn the partners far more than expected as the British are in need of food supplies.

Part 4, Chapter 42

Salinas Valley goes into the war with the self-important notion that Americans were the greatest warriors in the world and they sing songs about hanging the Kaiser, convinced that the war effort is a glorious example of American superiority. As their young men are killed and the word is passed that they were not being given the full story—that men were going into battle unarmed, the songs begin to change to pleas for mercy.


Cal's words and rejection sting Kate as she thinks about them, seeing Charles's face in her mind. She realizes she is afraid of the turns her life might take. Ethel's blackmail attempt worries her—not the evidence itself, but having Ethel far away means Kate cannot control her. Whether rationally or not, Kate is afraid Faye's murder will be discovered and she will be accused of it. The battle between good and evil is beginning to reach the point the narrator mentioned earlier—that evil comes and goes but good remains steady. Kate senses she is headed for a fall.

Cal is trying to ride the wave of good, wanting to help Aron and Adam financially and believing his business deal will gain him quite a lot of money. However, Cal doesn't think about his financial success coming at the expense of farmers who depend on selling beans for their livelihood. Cal's good intentions in what he is trying to do will not turn out as he wants or expects, despite the amount of money he makes. Unlike Will, Cal is not experienced in business deals and does not realize that his profits, despite their legality, border on the unethical.

The narrator reveals additional information in the dialogue between Cal and Aron: a clue that points to how Aron feels about the Abra he has constructed. In his creation of Abra he believes and expects she will do whatever he tells her to do, and Aron considers nothing amiss about this way of thinking. He gives no thought to what Abra might want or need nor that she has a mind and spirit of her own. This clue to the future of the relationship between Aron and Abra further damages the rosy vision of childhood sweethearts living happily together.

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