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East of Eden | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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East of Eden | Chapter Summaries

See Chapter Summaries Chart

Timeline of Events

  • Mid-1800s

    Samuel and Liza Hamilton settle in Salinas Valley and have nine children.

    Part 1, Chapter 2
  • 1862

    Cyrus and Mrs. Trask marry in Connecticut and have Adam; Cyrus loses his leg in the Civil War.

    Part 1, Chapter 3
  • Late 1862

    Cyrus infects Mrs. Trask with gonorrhea; she commits suicide.

    Part 1, Chapter 3
  • Two weeks later

    Cyrus marries and impregnates 17-year-old Alice, who gives birth to Charles.

    Part 1, Chapter 3
  • 1863–70s

    The boys grow up; jealous Charles is often violent toward the favored Adam.

    Part 1, Chapter 3
  • 1880

    Jealous over a rejected gift, Charles tries to kill Adam; Cyrus sends Adam to join the cavalry.

    Part 1, Chapter 4
  • 1893

    Adam escapes from jail for vagrancy and returns; Cyrus has died, leaving Adam and Charles rich.

    Part 1, Chapter 7
  • About 1893

    Cathy, 16, sets the home on fire, killing her parents, and becomes a prostitute.

    Part 1, Chapter 8
  • Next year

    Mr. Edwards discovers Cathy's deception and severely beats her; she ends up at the Trask farm.

    Part 1, Chapter 9
  • Weeks later

    Having nursed her, Adam falls in love and marries Cathy; she drugs him and sleeps with Charles.

    Part 1, Chapter 11
  • 1900

    Adam and pregnant Cathy move to California; Adam hires Samuel to find water on land he may buy.

    Part 2, Chapter 13
  • Months later

    Cathy gives birth to twin boys, refuses to look at them, and bites Samuel who helps at the birth.

    Part 2, Chapter 17
  • One week later

    Cathy shoots Adam, leaves him, and returns to prostitution.

    Part 2, Chapter 17
  • Years later, February

    Faye wills the brothel to Cathy; Cathy poisons Faye and takes over the brothel.

    Part 2, Chapter 21
  • March that year

    Samuel dies; Adam visits Cathy; Aron loves Abra; Tom and Dessie die; the Trasks move to town.

    Part 3, Chapter 25
  • Weeks later

    Charles dies and leaves money to Adam and Cathy; Adam loses money in failed business.

    Part 3, Chapter 31
  • 1916–Fall 1917

    Cal talks with Cathy; Aron leaves for Stanford; Cal invests.

    Part 4, Chapter 39
  • Thanksgiving 1917

    Adam refuses Cal's money; hurt, Cal takes Aron to see Cathy; horrified, Aron enlists.

    Part 4, Chapter 49
  • Winter 1918

    Cathy commits suicide, leaving Aron money; Abra and Cal become close; Aron breaks with Abra.

    Part 4, Chapter 51
  • May 1918

    Aron dies in battle; Adam has a stroke; Lee and Abra encourage Adam to bless Cal.

    Part 4, Chapter 55

Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
Part 1, Chapters 1–3 The narrator describes the natural world encapsulated in the Salinas Valley in California, recalling images from his c... Read More
Part 1, Chapters 4–6 Charles disappears after learning Cyrus is after him with a shotgun for injuring Adam. After Adam recovers, he is put ... Read More
Part 1, Chapters 7–9 When Adam Trask finally gets out of the army, he tells Charles he is coming home but becomes a vagrant for another thr... Read More
Part 1, Chapters 10–11 Charles and Adam Trask begin to live together again, but the peace doesn't last. Adam doesn't want to farm and Charles... Read More
Part 2, Chapters 12–14 The narrator summarizes 19th-century history, land acquisitions the United States made at the expense of the people wh... Read More
Part 2, Chapters 15–17 The construction of an Eden begins, with Adam Trask's hiring Samuel Hamilton to search for places to dig wells on his ... Read More
Part 2, Chapters 18–20 Horace Quinn, the deputy sheriff, comes to the Trask house to question Adam about the shooting, but Adam won't reveal ... Read More
Part 2, Chapters 21–22 The prostitutes who work at the brothel have learned Kate will inherit the business; with her inheritance in place and... Read More
Part 3, Chapters 23–25 Samuel's favorite daughter, Una, left town to marry a film technician who was trying to invent color film. The Hamilto... Read More
Part 3, Chapters 26–28 Adam Trask is so elated to have rid himself of Cathy he decides he needs a car and goes to talk with Will Hamilton abo... Read More
Part 3, Chapters 29–31 Adam Trask's Model T Ford arrives, and he has to hire a mechanic, Roy, who wants to be called Joe (and finds this enor... Read More
Part 3, Chapters 32–33 When Dessie's marriage falls apart, so does her ability to spark happiness in everyone who visits her dress shop. Her ... Read More
Part 4, Chapters 34–36 The narrator reveals his thoughts about what people really want, which is to be loved, and evil becomes the result of ... Read More
Part 4: Chapters 37–39 Adam Trask decides to explore a business venture and test a theory. After buying an icebox to use at home, he believes... Read More
Part 4, Chapters 40–42 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 ... Read More
Part 4, Chapters 43–44 Adam finds out Aron is accelerating his schoolwork and taking college entrance exams. Proud of his son, he doesn't let... Read More
Part 4, Chapters 45–47 Joe Valery, an ex-con, is trying to devise a way to cheat Kate out of more money, but he fears her. Kate has been rely... Read More
Part 4, Chapters 48–50 At the funeral of another Salinas brothel madam, Joe chats with Alf, a town gossip. Over a beer Alf tells him people w... Read More
Part 4, Chapters 51–53 Now sheriff, Horace Quinn calls a lawyer to his office to ascertain whether Kate's handwritten will is valid; the lawy... Read More
Part 4, Chapters 54–55 Lee is taking care of Adam through his illness, and Adam's health seems to be improving. Lee has studied up on cerebra... Read More
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