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Literature Study GuidesEast Of EdenPart 4 Chapters 43 44 Summary

East of Eden | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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East of Eden | Part 4, Chapters 43–44 | Summary



Part 4, Chapter 43

Adam finds out Aron is accelerating his schoolwork and taking college entrance exams. Proud of his son, he doesn't let Aron know he knows but decides to get him a gold watch if he passes. Lee tells Adam they have enough money for Aron to go to college. Aron remains devoted to the church and wishes he could be a monk. Mr. Rolf informs Aron that the owner of a brothel has been attending services for several weeks, but Aron doesn't realize the woman is his mother.

Aron passes his exams, but doesn't tell Adam. When Aron comes back from celebrating his success, Lee tells him he needs to talk with his father about the exams. Lee nearly fights with Aron but asks him to explain the problem: Aron wants to leave Salinas because he believes it is dirty. Lee urges him to speak with Adam, assuring Aron that such feelings will pass because no one watches him as closely as he watches himself.

Part 4, Chapter 44

When Aron goes to Stanford, Abra spends most of her time at Adam and Lee's house. She tells Lee how Aron wants her to be pure, but she is not, nor is she good. Wanting to be loved for herself, she thinks Aron doesn't know her. When she asks Lee if Aron's mother is alive, Lee admits she is. Cal arrives and hands Lee a check for the money he borrowed, with interest, and tells him he has $15,000 to give to Adam. The next day Abra walks with Cal and tells him Aron is writing her love letters that sound as though he is writing to himself because the person he is describing is not her, Abra. Cal tells her Aron will knock the bad out of her.


Aron is starting to come undone, thinking he and the city around him are so full of sin and depravity that he needs to leave. In fact, his retreat into his version of righteousness keeps him at a distance from those he is close to and from readers as well, who might ask themselves if he is becoming a fanatic. His obsession with the church seems to come from not having had a mother to guide him, so his vision of women is the vision the church may give, of purity, constancy, and obedience. Abra's confession to Lee that she simply wants to be herself is far more natural than Aron's insistence on purity and goodness. No human beings are completely good, and Steinbeck shows, with Aron's increasing worry and created vision of Abra, that trying to be completely pure is unhealthy and forces people to shut down parts of themselves in ways that make them less than human.

The conversation between Abra and Cal foreshadows the connection they will forge later with each other because neither of them is completely good or bad; however, they are capable of love and kindness and want to be as upright as they can. Cal's success in earning money for his father comes from a noble impulse, and he is slowly developing into a more balanced character who exhibits more control over his actions. The intimacy of the conversation between Abra and Cal dismisses the feelings Abra previously has harbored about Cal's opinion of her—she has not liked Cal because she suspected he has been judging her. This conversation reveals otherwise; clearly he thinks well of her.

The father-son theme continues as Adam displays his pride in Aron's academic accomplishments and plans to reward him with an expensive gift, even though Aron's goal is to leave Salinas because of its sinfulness, to which his mother is a major contributor, despite his lack of awareness. Cal, however, chooses to stay and work his father's land, has the courage to face life as it is—including a confrontation with his mother—and works to give money to his father rather than take it. Yet Adam shows no appreciation. He sees Cal as shiftless and lacking ambition. In addition, Adam is continuing the biblical tale, for it is clear he favors Aron. Lee, once again, reveals himself as more perceptive about Cal's potential.

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