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East of Eden

East of Eden Summary


Here you will find a East of Eden summary (John Steinbeck's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

East of Eden Summary Overview

In the tail end of the 1800s, Samuel Hamilton migrates to Salinas Valley, California, along with his wife, Liza. Despite Samuel's hard work, the family does not amass wealth but gains respect amongst the locals. Meanwhile, Adam Trask relocates to the same valley with his wife, Cathy, who was once a prostitute and murderer, unbeknownst to Adam. Amid her hatred for Adam, Cathy sedates him on their wedding night to be with his half-brother, Charles. Cathy is desperate to escape her marital ties and attempts an unsuccessful abortion before ultimately birthing twin boys, Aron and Caleb. One day, she shoots Adam and flees to live her life as a prostitute, leaving Adam to raise their sons. Cathy manipulates her way into running a local brothel, using it to exploit influential men. Adam, with the help of his housekeeper, Lee, and his friend Samuel, shields his sons from Cathy’s dark life. As the twins grow, they display distinct characteristics, with Aron taking after his father's kindness and Caleb showing signs of his mother’s manipulative nature. Struggling with his dark side, Caleb prays to be more like Aron. Samuel finally uncovers Cathy’s truth to Adam, which jolts him out of his years-long despondency. Following Samuel's death, Adam confronts Cathy in the brothel, finally able to leave her behind and focus on fatherhood. Aron, the more religious of the twins, withdraws from the world's corruption, while Adam loses their fortune on a failed business venture, leading Aron to leave for Stanford University. Caleb, however, teams up with Samuel’s son, Will, to earn back the lost fortune through a sketchy business scheme, hoping to pay Aron's tuition. When Adam refuses the money, Caleb tells Aron about their mother's dark past, leading Aron to join the Army and Cathy to commit suicide, leaving her wealth to Aron. Following Aron's death in World War I, Adam has a stroke. On his deathbed, he whispers the word "timshel," giving his final blessing to a guilt-ridden Caleb, who starts a relationship with Aron’s former lover, Abra.

chapter 1

The storyteller shares his upbringing in California's Salinas Valley, where he distinguished east from west by observing the mountains. He saw the radiant Gabilan Mountains to the east and the gloomy Santa Lucia Mountains to the west. The weather of the valley runs in thirty-year periods: heavy rainfall for about five years, moderate rainfall for nearly seven years, and extended dry spells. The valley's inhabitants comprised of Indians, who the storyteller criticizes as indolent; the Spanish, who he labels as avaricious; and the Americans, who he argues are even more covetous than the Spanish.

chapter 2

In the year 1870, the narrator's grandparents, Samuel and Liza Hamilton, migrated from Ireland to the Salinas Valley. The remaining available land in the valley was the most arid and infertile, leaving the Hamiltons with no other option but to settle there. The fertile parcels had already been claimed. Samuel had to take up multiple jobs to provide for their large family of nine children. He made his living as a blacksmith, a well-digger, and a doctor without a license.

chapter 3

After Samuel Hamilton, Adam Trask arrives and stakes his claim in a rich spot of the Salinas Valley, living a prosperous life. The story then retells Adam's past. Adam's father, Cyrus Trask, is a deceitful Connecticut farmer who contracts syphilis from a black prostitute during the Civil War and passes it to his wife, causing her to commit suicide. Cyrus remarries a young woman named Alice who lives in fear of him and hides her tuberculosis. Cyrus spends his free time studying military tactics to embellish his army service, which earns him the role of Secretary of the Army. As a child, Adam is kind and gentle, while his half-brother Charles is more aggressive. When Adam wins a game, Charles physically assaults him. Adam adores Alice, his stepmother, leaving her anonymous gifts to brighten her day. Cyrus urges the adult Adam to join the army, favoring him over Charles. Cyrus explains that the army would provoke dangerous aspects of Charles's nature and admits he loves Adam more. Upon hearing of this conversation, Charles expresses resentment over Cyrus's lack of appreciation for an expensive gift, compared to a stray puppy from Adam. In a fit of jealousy, Charles beats up Adam and abandons him in a roadside ditch. When Adam finally returns home, he tells Cyrus that Charles believes he isn't loved. Cyrus leaves with a shotgun to find Charles. As Alice cares for Adam, she discloses her belief that Charles, not Adam, has been leaving her secret gifts throughout the years.

chapter 4

Charles makes the shrewd decision to avoid his home for a fortnight. Once he finally returns, Cyrus' anger has subsided and he assigns Charles tasks to complete.

chapter 5

Samuel Hamilton, an autodidact from Ireland, earns everyone's admiration in America with his kind nature. Despite not amassing wealth, the Hamiltons live a comfortable life. Their family comprises four sons: George, who's unexciting but virtuous; Will, the fortunate one who becomes affluent; Tom, full of fervor and passion; and Joe, a relaxed yet endearing and smart individual. Samuel and Liza also have five daughters: Lizzie, who keeps her distance from the family; Una, the mysterious and introspective one; Dessie, cherished for her delightful nature; Olive, who becomes a teacher and is the narrator’s mother; and Mollie, the youngest and most beautiful. Liza Hamilton, Samuel's wife, commands great respect throughout the Salinas valley. She maintains a firm stand against alcohol until she's 70, when her doctor prescribes port wine for health reasons. From then on, she enjoys her drinks heartily.

chapter 6

Adam Trask becomes a soldier as his father Cyrus relocates to Washington as an Army Secretary. In the meantime, Charles oversees their Connecticut farm all by himself, occasionally visiting brothels. During a strenuous task of removing a large rock from his yard, he injures his forehead, resulting in a permanent, unsightly scar. This physical defect leads him to lessen his visits to town and yearn for Adam's company. In 1885, Adam leaves the Army, only to discover he prefers the military life and decides to reenlist. In Washington, he comes across Cyrus, now flaunting high-quality clothes and a high-end prosthetic leg. Cyrus offers to help Adam enter the prestigious West Point military academy, yet Adam opts to return to his former regiment. The news of Adam's decision profoundly disheartens Charles. After many unsuccessful attempts, Adam finally reconnects with Charles through letters a year later. Despite their correspondence, the brothers find it hard to bond due to their dissimilar interests.

chapter 7

Having completed five years of battles against the Native Americans in the west, Adam is again discharged from his military duties. As he laboriously traverses the nation back to his Connecticut farm, he falls into a nomadic lifestyle and is ultimately arrested for vagrancy, ending up on a chain gang. In the month of February in the year 1894, Adam's father Cyrus passes away, bequeathing a large inheritance of over $100,000 to his sons to be divided equally. Charles is taken aback by the size of Cyrus' wealth and questions the legitimacy of its source. Later, Charles gets a telegram from Adam, who is seeking $100 to fund his journey back to Connecticut. Charles arranges to send the money through a telegraph officer, but insists on an identity verification process. He instructs the officer to ask Adam what gift he gave his father before joining the Army. If Adam replies with "a puppy," the officer can confirm his identity and proceed with the transfer. Upon his return home, Adam finds himself unexpectedly undaunted by Charles. The siblings converse about their late father and the inheritance they received. Charles discloses to Adam his discovery that Cyrus' war tales were fabricated, as the dates on his Army documents reveal inconsistencies. Charles also suspects that their inheritance might have been ill-gotten, but Adam dismisses his suspicion. Adam proposes they use the money to relocate to California, but not before erecting a monument in honor of Cyrus.

chapter 8

Cathy Ames, despite her youthful, innocent facade, lacks moral compass from a young age. Selfish and manipulative, she learns to exploit her sexuality for harm. As a young student, she orchestrates punishment for a group of local boys by enticing them with her body, leading to a severe beating for them when they are discovered with Cathy in a compromising position in a barn. Additionally, her ambiguous relationship with her Latin teacher results in his suicide. Cathy harbors no love for her caring parents and attempts to escape to Boston. When her father intercepts her and punishes her, she becomes temporarily subservient and useful at home. However, one fateful night, Cathy swipes all the money from her father’s safe, instigates a house fire, splatters chicken blood around, and locks the house from outside before leaving. Her parents, trapped in the flaming house, perish. The townsfolk, discovering the chicken blood, mistakenly conclude that Cathy has been brutally killed.

chapter 9

Cathy, now under the alias Catherine Amesbury, meets Mr. Edwards, a man who operates a prostitution network across New England. Mr. Edwards, usually detached and skeptical, is unexpectedly drawn to Cathy in a strong sexual way. He keeps Cathy for himself secretly, setting her up in a small home. Cathy starts pilfering from Mr. Edwards, successfully instilling fear in him. As time passes, Mr. Edwards becomes aware of Cathy's past. One evening, he intoxicates her and she responds violently, threatening him with a shattered wineglass. He drags her to a secluded place and assaults her brutally. Shocked by his actions, he leaves a battered Cathy in a field close to the Trask farm in Connecticut and returns to his wife. Cathy manages to drag herself away and eventually shows up at the Trasks' home.

chapter 10

Before Cathy comes, Charles and Adam have a hard time getting along on their farm, arguing over their different lifestyles. Adam detests Charles's dedication to working the farm early in the morning despite their wealth from Cyrus's inheritance. Conversely, Charles loathes Adam's judgements and laid-back attitude. While Adam proposes moving to California, Charles shows no desire to abandon the farm. Gradually, Adam starts to venture out on prolonged journeys, first to Boston, then to South America. When he comes back from Buenos Aires, he finds out that Charles has expanded their property. He recounts to Charles his experiences on a chain gang post-war.

chapter 11

Covered in filth and blood, Cathy reaches the Trasks’ front door. Charles, wary of his social status, doesn't want to shelter her. Adam, however, insists on looking after her, citing her weakened state. When interrogated by the sheriff about her assault, Cathy, unable to speak due to her shattered jaw, writes that she has no recollection of the event. Despite Charles's objections, Cathy stays at the farm. While Adam is out, Charles challenges her memory loss claim. He tricks her into believing she disclosed her past to him during a delirium episode caused by her injuries. Cathy is deceived, and Charles ridicules her naivety. Charles's likeness to her frightens Cathy. She discovers that she can easily influence Adam, who proposes to her. Viewing marriage as a safe haven, she agrees but requests that Charles remains uninformed. Charles's suspicion grows when a neighbor finds a suitcase with money and clothes near the assault site. Once Charles leaves the house, Adam and Cathy go to town and marry. Upon finding out about their marriage, Charles is furious. Meanwhile, Cathy is shocked to discover Adam's plans to move them to California. That night, she tells Adam she's too injured to share a bed with him. She drugs him and heads to Charles, who welcomes her in his bed.

chapter 12

The storyteller shares his perspective on how history is perceived. According to him, people's inclination towards nostalgia allows for harsh occurrences to be either ignored or forgotten. He attributes the entirety of the nineteenth century, inclusive of the Civil War, to a significant rise in greed and savagery. As the new century dawned, he suggests that it was necessary for people to disregard the past century to progress into the future.

chapter 13

The narrator contends that the autonomy and curiosity of an individual's mind is the most precious element on earth. He's concerned that the rise of mechanization and mass production during the twentieth century will stifle human innovation and creativity. Despite her opposition, Adam Trask relocates his newfound muse, Cathy, to California's Salinas Valley. On their departure day, Charles, overcome with sorrow, drowns his woes in alcohol, solicits a prostitute, and later cries at his alcohol-induced impotence. Once in the valley, Adam quickly becomes part of the local community and starts looking for a suitable land to buy. One evening, he discovers Cathy unconscious and bleeding excessively. After calling a doctor, it becomes apparent that Cathy is pregnant and had attempted a self-abortion. The doctor chastises Cathy for trying to end a life, but she soothes his anger by falsely claiming a family history of epilepsy. The doctor assures her that epilepsy isn't inherited and reveals her pregnancy to Adam. Seeking advice on land acquisition, Adam consults Samuel Hamilton, reputed to be well-informed about the valley. After a discussion about future plans, Adam decides to buy a ranch situated midway between King City and San Lucas.

chapter 14

Olive Hamilton, Samuel's child and the story's narrator's mother, chooses to be an educator rather than a rancher's wife. She is adamant about residing in a city and has no intention of tying knots with an agriculturist. Ultimately, she ends up marrying a flourmill owner in King City and gives birth to four kids. Her offspring remember her as a rigid, caring mother who instilled in them a fear of being in debt and who painstakingly cared for her child during a serious bout of pneumonia. In the course of World War I, Olive contributed to the war cause by selling Liberty bonds. Her contribution was so significant that she was rewarded with the most prestigious prize—a trip in an airplane. Even though the idea of flying scared her, she put up a brave front for her thrilled children. However, the pilot misinterpreted Olive's desires and performed some airborne tricks. After landing, Olive was left feeling unsettled and unwell, and she had to stay in bed for a couple of days.

chapter 15

Adam Trask is content living in California with his wife, Cathy, and their Chinese-American housekeeper and cook, Lee. While Cathy is uneasy around Lee, she still appreciates her comfortable lifestyle. Lee reveals to Samuel, while on their way to the Trask’s, that he prefers his role as a servant because it gives him control over his employer. He also admits to intentionally speaking in pidgin English, like "Me talkee Chinese talk", to meet American stereotypes, despite being born and raised in the US. Adam seeks Samuel's assistance to source water on his property to gauge its agricultural potential. He shares tales of his Connecticut upbringing with Samuel. However, when Samuel dines with the Trasks, he feels neglected as Adam pays attention only to Cathy, who remains distant and detached. After Samuel's departure, Cathy stuns Adam by confessing her discontent about moving to California and her intention to leave once she can. Adam reassures her that the arrival of their baby will change her feelings.

chapter 16

Samuel is fond of Adam, yet he feels uneasy due to the perceived lack of compassion in Cathy. He consents to assist Adam in refurbishing the rundown house on the ranch that Adam now owns. On the other hand, Liza is not in agreement with this. She believes that the Trasks' affluence and laziness indicate a lack of morality.

chapter 17

While Samuel is busy at the Trask residence, Lee informs him of Cathy's ongoing labor. Both men share a mutual discomfort about Cathy's character. Despite her hostility, which goes as far as biting Samuel's hand during the process, Samuel assists Cathy in childbirth, leading to the birth of twin boys. Cathy's refusal to acknowledge her babies leads Samuel to express his dislike for her openly. In the following days, Liza joins the Trasks to aid with the newborns while Lee continues to look after them, although he has increasing concerns about Cathy. Once Cathy has recuperated for a week, Adam approaches her room, finding her ready to leave the house. She informs Adam of her intentions to abandon the family, showing indifference towards the fate of the twins. Adam tries to confine Cathy to her room, but when he later opens the door, she confronts him with a gun, shooting him in the shoulder. As Adam collapses, the sound of the crying twins echoes in the background.

chapter 18

Adam confides in Horace Quinn, the deputy sheriff, claiming his gunshot wound was self-inflicted during a cleaning accident. Quinn, however, quickly realizes the truth behind Adam's tale. When questioned about Cathy, Adam breaks down crying. In a separate conversation, Quinn and the sheriff discuss Faye, a local brothel owner. Faye had recently inquired about a runaway that bears a striking resemblance to Cathy. Determined to spare Adam further pain, they decide not to reveal that Cathy could be working as a prostitute, protecting the twins from the harsh reality about their mother. Concurrently, Samuel provides advice to the distraught Adam, suggesting that acting joyful and lively can eventually lead to genuine happiness. He reminds Adam that his children require his emotional strength.

chapter 19

The storyteller reveals that three brothels exist in the Salinas Valley, which local folks view as necessary but unspoken elements of their community. The newest of the brothels is run by Faye, where Cathy, who now goes by Kate, blossoms. She gains Faye's confidence and swiftly becomes a vital cog in Faye's establishment. The local sheriff discovers Cathy and adopts a lenient approach, promising to keep her past actions and the incident with Adam a secret, provided she never attempts to reach out to her sons. The sheriff also assures Cathy that he will keep his son away from Faye’s brothel to protect him from ever encountering Cathy.

chapter 20

Cathy's lecture to the brothel's piano player, Cotton Eye, about his opium problem leaves Faye astounded. Faye comes to view Cathy as a daughter and advises her to abandon her life of prostitution, but Cathy insists she requires the income. In a grand gesture, Faye brings Cathy into her bedroom to hand over her will which bequeaths all her possessions to Cathy upon her passing. This is a substantial amount, given the brothel's financial success. Cathy is overjoyed but her joy soon turns to harshness after sipping some of Faye's celebratory champagne. Uninhibited, she cruelly reveals to Faye that she earns more than she lets on by employing whips, razors, and other tools of torture with her clients. Faye is so shocked that she screams in terror. In her panic, Cathy hands Faye a drink to put her to sleep. Cathy, regretting her drunken revelation, uses ammonia to knock out Faye and employs sharp tools to convince her she's experiencing a terrible nightmare. The other brothel workers perceive Cathy's actions as caring, and upon waking, Faye also believes Cathy has been tenderly caring for her. Faye attributes all of Cathy's disturbing revelations to her supposed nightmare and appreciates Cathy's care and kindness.

chapter 21

As time progresses, Cathy gains increasing dominance in Faye's household. Using the local doctor's obliviousness to her advantage, she methodically starts drugging Faye, leading her towards slow poisoning. Concurrently, Cathy ensures that she is viewed by the other girls as being completely loyal and devoted to Faye. Upon Faye's death, Cathy feigns overwhelming sorrow.

chapter 22

Adam, still mourning Cathy's departure, refuses to name his twin sons, a fact that Lee shares with Samuel. Samuel finds this unacceptable and rebukes Adam for his sadness, even resorting to physical aggression to snap him out of his despondency. His approach works, and he convinces Adam that it's time to name the babies. They both contemplate the babies, considering potential names. The tale of Cain and Abel is brought up by Samuel, who then proposes Caleb and Joshua as names from the Bible. When the name Caleb makes one of the infants cry, Adam takes it as a sign and the first baby is named Caleb. However, Adam rejects Joshua, associating the name with a warrior, and instead settles on Aaron for the second baby. Despite Samuel's knowledge that the biblical Aaron didn't reach the Promised Land, he approves of the name. The second baby's reaction to the name Aaron is seen as another sign by Adam, leading to the final naming of the second boy as Aaron.

chapter 23

In 1911, the death of his beloved daughter, Una, leaves Samuel burdened with sorrow. She had recently moved to a secluded region in Oregon with her spouse. When the Hamilton offspring come to visit Samuel and Liza during Thanksgiving, they are shocked to see their once youthful father looking significantly older. They concoct a scheme to shift their parents off the farm by inviting them to stay with each child for extended durations. Tom, however, dislikes the idea, as it suggests to Samuel that he is nearing the end of his life. Yet, the rest of the children favor the idea and propose it to Samuel as a vacation. Samuel agrees to the plan, but indicates to Tom that he understands their true intentions and acknowledges that his children are aiding him to accept his elderly years.

chapter 24

Samuel bids his farm goodbye and pays Adam Trask a visit. Observing the eleven-year-old twins, he notes that the laid-back Aron, who has shortened his name, resembles Abel while the reserved Caleb reminds him of Cain. Engaging in a conversation with Adam and Lee, they delve into the Biblical tale of Cain and Abel. Lee shares a linguistic issue he's been wrestling with - two Bible translations contradict each other on whether God gave Cain a command or a promise to conquer sin. The Hebrew term "timshel" under scrutiny, has, according to Lee’s years of research, translates to "thou mayest". This interpretation is profound to Lee, as it suggests God has granted humans the autonomy to decide whether to triumph over sin, hence dictating their life path. On a walk, Samuel queries Adam about his happiness, which Adam doesn't respond to. In an attempt to help Adam move past Cathy, Samuel discloses that Cathy is the madam of the most notorious brothel in the valley. The revelation leaves Adam stunned, who then hastily leaves.

chapter 25

Samuel Hamilton passes away due to old age. Post his funeral, Adam visits Cathy's brothel. He is taken aback by Cathy's transformation into an unattractive, monstrous woman. His realization enables him to finally let go of her. His decision miffs Cathy, who defends her outlook on the world as being inherently wicked. She discloses her sinister acts to Adam by showing him photographs of influential men from the Salinas Valley engaging in perverse sexual activities with her prostitutes. She has been using these photos as a blackmailing tool. Adam is about to depart when Cathy, in an act of desperation, offers herself to him. Seeing Adam's revulsion, she spitefully reveals that Charles, not Adam, is the father of the twins, as she had slept with him on their wedding night. But Adam dismisses her claim, stating that the truth, if ever revealed, wouldn't make any difference now. Suddenly, Cathy screams and the bouncer of the brothel assaults Adam. Nonetheless, Adam walks out with a peaceful smile, feeling liberated from the years-long torment of Cathy's haunting presence.

chapter 26

Returning from Salinas, Adam is joyous after his meeting with Cathy. He pays a visit to Will Hamilton's automobile store, expressing his wish to purchase a vehicle. Once back at his house, he shares with Lee his new resolution to utilize his land productively and improve his bond with his sons. Lee reveals his aspiration to exit the valley to establish a bookstore in San Francisco, but for the moment, he consents to stay in Salinas to assist Adam.

chapter 27

While engaging in a rabbit hunt, siblings Aron and Cal (Caleb's nickname) examine their contrasting characteristics: Aron's appealing looks and kind demeanor versus Cal's vague and scheming nature. In a discussion about their mother, Cal reveals rumors he's heard of her presence in Salinas, contrary to their father's claim of her being in heaven. This infuriates Aron, providing Cal a newfound control over him, manipulating his sentiments about their mother. During a surprise visit from the Bacons due to an unexpected rainstorm, the boys find out that the Bacons suggest Adam, their father, lease his land if he has no intention to farm it. Amidst this, Adam contemplates introducing the boys to their uncle Charles, whom they've never met. The boys then interact with the Bacon's daughter, Abra. She favors Aron, which irks Cal. Cal tries to gift his hunted rabbit to Abra, but Aron declares it as his. However, he consents to Abra taking it home for burial. When Aron departs, Cal feeds Abra a series of lies about Aron, hoping to unsettle her. He alleges that their housekeeper Lee abuses Aron and that Aron plans to replace the dead rabbit with a snake. When the Bacons leave, Abra discards the box, which disheartens Aron as he’d hidden a love letter for her inside. Cal proposes to lend his non-existent rifle to Aron if he desires to retaliate against Abra, but Aron points out the absence of a rifle in Cal's possession.

chapter 28

During an evening meal, Adam breaks his usual aloof demeanor by engaging in conversation with his sons, displaying a newfound curiosity and warmth towards them. When Cal inquires about the final resting place of their mother, Adam falsely says she's buried back in her eastern hometown. Subsequently, Lee chides Adam for misleading the boys, cautioning him that they will uncover the truth eventually and his lies could harm their faith in him. Lee reminisces about his early years. His parents were railroad laborers, with his expecting mother donning male attire to accompany her spouse on their transatlantic journey to America. After delivering Lee, she was brutally attacked and killed by the other rail workers, stunned to find out she was female. However, stricken with immediate guilt and disgust at their actions, they took Lee under their wing. Adam pens a heartfelt letter to Charles, inviting him to visit California. He is anxious over how Charles might perceive the letter and finds himself eagerly awaiting a response.

chapter 29

When Will Hamilton brings Adam’s new vehicle to the Trask residence, both him and the mechanic who shows up the following day appear clueless about the car's operations.

chapter 30

Adam masters the operation of the automobile and takes his sons to town to collect his post. He receives a letter from lawyers in Connecticut, which reveals that Charles, his brother, has passed away, leaving a substantial inheritance of $100,000 to be divided between Adam and Cathy. Adam seeks Lee's opinion on the unexpected inheritance, as he's puzzled over Charles leaving money to Cathy, whom he loathed. Unbeknownst to them, Cal listens in on their discussion. Lee conjectures that Cathy is unlikely to claim her share, but he believes that Adam, regardless of his advice, would offer her the money. Lee then reveals his plans to retire due to old age and expresses a desire to move to San Francisco to start a bookstore. Upon hearing the conversation, Cal becomes despondent and implores God to be more like his brother, Aron. In an attempt to be kinder, Cal informs Aron about Adam's intention to place a wreath on their mother's tomb. That night, Cal continues to call upon God to improve him as he drifts off to sleep.

chapter 31

Adam visits Cathy in the brothel to share the news about Charles's demise and her share of the inheritance. Cathy, however, doubts Adam's reasons behind this disclosure because he could easily have kept the fortune without her knowing. Adam challenges Cathy by declaring that she only represents "part of a human" and is completely incapable of acknowledging the existence of goodness. Cathy, deeply affected by Adam's words, quivers with anger as he departs. Spontaneously, Adam decides to visit Liza Hamilton. She resides in Salinas with her daughter Olive, who is wed to Ernest Steinbeck, the narrator's father. Adam confides in Liza about his plan to shift the twins to the town.

chapter 32

Tom Hamilton resides in the ancestral farmhouse following his dad's demise, covertly penning sorrowful verses. Eventually, his sister, Dessie, opts to move in with him, a decision he receives joyfully, promising to spruce up the old household. Tom takes to renovating and sanitizing the property, yet Dessie starts to endure extreme abdominal discomfort, the magnitude of which she strives to conceal from Tom.

chapter 33

Tom and Dessie concoct a plan to gather funds for a foreign trip by rearing piglets. After discussing a loan for the pork venture with Will, Tom returns home to find Dessie writhing in agony. To soothe her, he offers her salts, a common treatment, and summons a physician. The infuriated doctor rebukes Tom, criticizing his treatment choice as one that probably exacerbated Dessie's condition. Exiting his residence, he instructs his spouse to notify Will Hamilton about the urgency of driving him to Tom's, due to his sister's critical condition. Dessie's life comes to an end. Tormented by sorrow and the thought that his actions may have unintentionally led to her demise, Tom raves to his deceased father's spirit about his desire to end his own life. He pens a message to their mother, stating his intention to tame a new, unruly horse he recently purchased. He also writes to Will, asking him to inform their mother that a horse riding accident led to his death. Following the dispatch of the letters, Tom takes his own life using his sidearm.

chapter 34

The storyteller delves into the perpetual battle between righteousness and wickedness, identifying it as the consistent theme in human existence. He believes that the world's response to an individual's demise can reflect their true character. Recalling a man who amassed wealth at others' expense, yet attempted redemption through philanthropy, he notes the subdued relief that marked his passing. He then refers to an immoral man hiding behind a facade of goodness, whose death was met with jubilation. Finally, he reminisces about a flawed man who dedicated his life to fortifying others during difficult times; his death sparked overwhelming sorrow.

chapter 35

The Trasks shift their residence to the city of Salinas, purchasing the home Dessie Hamilton formerly occupied before transitioning to the ranch with Tom. Lee departs with intentions of starting his own bookstore in San Francisco. Aron and Cal speculate about Lee’s exit, with Aron wagering ten cents that Lee will return. Lee’s return, merely six days later, confirms Aron’s prediction. Lee shares with Adam his feelings of loneliness and his realization that owning a bookstore wasn't what he truly desired. He expresses his relief at being back home.

chapter 36

Aron and Cal, the twins, enroll at a Salinas school, where they are placed in seventh grade. The twins quickly become well-regarded students, with Aron being liked by his peers while Cal earns respect by asserting dominance at the playground. After their first day, Aron follows a girl named Abra Bacon home and proposes future marriage to her. She takes him to a hidden spot under a willow tree, which she designates as their pretend marriage setting. There, Aron confides in Abra, who plays along by pretending to be his mother. When Aron becomes emotional, Abra reveals that she heard her parents discussing that his mother is alive, contrary to what he has been told. Despite their closeness, Aron refuses to believe her, as it implies that Adam and Lee have been deceiving him. The encounter ends with Abra kissing Aron before departing.

chapter 37

In 1915, the purchase of an icebox by Lee prompts Adam to consider a business opportunity: transporting produce encased in ice to regions where fresh produce is scarce during winter. Despite Will Hamilton's warning that the concept is ill-conceived, Adam attempts it, only to face failure. His shipment of Salinas lettuce arrives spoiled and tardy in the east due to constant train delays, just as the doubters had forewarned. Following this unsuccessful venture, Adam's ample wealth dwindles to just $9,000. His sons, Aron and Cal, become the subject of schoolyard taunts and Adam, once held in high esteem, becomes the town's object of scorn. Amidst all this, only Abra stays loyal to Aron, vowing to always stand by him. Cal grows increasingly envious of the time Abra spends with Aron, leading to his restlessness and dissatisfaction. As Adam's reputation diminishes, gossip begins to circulate about his past and Cathy. When Abra catches wind of one of these rumors, she encourages Aron to question his father about his mother. However, Aron, filled with apprehension, refuses.

chapter 38

Cal begins to roam outside during the nights, restless. On a night out, he encounters a drunk farmer, Rabbit Holman, who informs him about his mother's brothel and takes Cal there. Horrified, Cal relays the event to Lee, who reveals the whole truth about Cathy. Lee describes Cathy as excessively wicked, leading Cal to worry about inheriting this wickedness. But Lee encourages Cal to understand the power of his own free will, reminding him that he and not his mother, will shape his life. Striving to lead a moral life, Cal constantly finds himself succumbing to temptation. He keeps the truth about their mother from Aron, fearing it would shatter the innocent and trusting Aron. Meanwhile, Aron finds faith and decides to become a minister. He even expresses his intention to stay celibate to Abra, who indulges him believing he might change his decision when it's time for them to marry.

chapter 39

Salinas experiences a period of ethical reform, which particularly targets organized gambling. Cal, who enjoys observing this nightlife activity, gets caught and arrested during a police operation. His father, Adam, comes to get him, sparking a profound conversation between the two. During their chat, Adam admits his shortcomings as a father, while Cal reveals his knowledge about their mother, Cathy. They also discuss Aron, with Cal expressing the need to safeguard his brother due to his inherent vulnerability. Following their conversation, Cal feels a stronger connection to his father. He begins to secretly observe Cathy's brothel, noting her strict Monday routine. Soon, he starts tailing Cathy until she confronts him about it. He discloses that he is her son, after which Cathy invites him into the brothel for further discussion. Inside her dimly lit room, Cathy, who suffers from severe arthritis, converses with Cal about his brother and father. Cal refrains from discussing Adam, but assures her that Aron is doing fine. Cathy, seemingly irked by Cal's affection for his brother and father, flaunts her ability to control people. She suggests that she and Cal share similarities, a notion which makes Cal question whether she ever felt left out during her childhood. Cathy's reaction to Cal's query forces him to realize that he isn't obliged to follow his mother's path. He confronts her, stating that her claimed light sensitivity is actually a fear of light.

chapter 40

Cathy gets an unexpected visit from Ethel, a former coworker from the brothel during Faye's rule. Ethel insinuates she discovered Cathy's poison bottles, the ones used to murder Faye, attempting to extort Cathy for a regular payment of $100 to guarantee her silence. Unfazed, Cathy misuses her power to have Ethel apprehended and expelled from the county under accusations of theft. Regardless, Cathy starts to worry that Ethel might expose her. She also feels Charles Trask's presence looming. Paranoia and restlessness start to consume her.

chapter 41

Cal persuades Aron to expedite his education, promising to support his college expenses, especially with the looming threat of war. Lee, learning of Cal’s intentions, pledges to contribute $5,000 from his savings. Cal consults with Will Hamilton regarding ways to gain wealth. Will appreciates Cal's straightforward and practical approach towards business. Will offers Cal a partnership idea, involving a potential venture in profiting from bean exports amidst a war-driven economy. With war officially declared, Salinas is swept up in a wave of patriotism. Cal and Will venture into business, purchasing beans from local farmers at two-and-a-half cents per pound and selling them in England for a hefty twelve cents per pound. Cal's primary goal is to regain the wealth his father, Adam, squandered in an unsuccessful refrigerated shipping business venture.

chapter 42

World War I commences and its impact can be keenly felt in Salinas. Families start receiving telegrams with the devastating news of their sons' deaths. This harsh reality shatters the previously held belief of the locals that they would remain untouched by the war.

chapter 43

Adam expresses satisfaction over Aron's choice to complete his high school education ahead of time, wishing Cal shared similar goals. Lee suggests that Cal might yet surprise Adam. Meanwhile, Aron is absorbed in his education and church activities, and learns that a local brothel owner has started attending church. As the war persists, Liza Hamilton passes away. Aron succeeds in his graduation tests, but refrains from informing his father, assuming that his father would be indifferent to his achievements. Contrary to Aron's beliefs, Lee informs him that his father is extremely proud and has plans to gift him a gold watch to celebrate his graduation.

chapter 44

After Aron departs for Stanford, Abra begins spending more time with Adam and Lee. She questions Lee about the reality of Aron's mother being a prostitute, which Lee affirms, expressing concern about the impact this truth may have if discovered by Aron. Concurrently, Cal reveals to Lee that he's earned enough to repay his $5,000 debt, plus an extra $15,000 which he intends to present to his father on Thanksgiving. In another conversation, Abra informs Cal that Aron no longer wishes to marry her as he aspires to join the clergy. Despite this, Cal believes Aron may reconsider. When Abra inquires about Cal's visits to prostitutes, he admits to it, leading Abra to confess her own sins. However, Cal doubts this, warning Abra that a life with Aron will demand her to uphold morality.

chapter 45

Joe Valery, an ex-prisoner who fled from San Quentin, is introduced. He's now a bouncer and pimp for Cathy, failing to find any flaws in her, which makes him fearfully admire her. Cathy's crippling arthritis makes her heavily dependent on Joe for running her brothel. Despite knowing about his criminal history, she expects to maintain control over him. Yet, he's always seeking opportunities to outsmart her. Cathy assigns Joe with the task of locating Ethel, a prostitute, in the hope that he would get her back to Salinas and eliminate her before she reveals anything about the poison Cathy used to kill Faye. Joe's search for Ethel in nearby towns indicates she is already dead. Still, he reports to Cathy with a fabricated rumor about Ethel secretly coming back to Salinas, which sends a wave of fear through Cathy.

chapter 46

Salinas residents have caught the war patriotism bug. The narrator and his sister are part of a group that harasses the town's tailor due to his German accent, going as far as to burn down his shop.

chapter 47

Adam is given a role on the community draft board, a responsibility which burdens him with guilt, as he fears he's sending young individuals to potential doom. Lee brings up the idea of timshel to Adam, suggesting that his participation on the board is a matter of personal choice. Meanwhile, Adam eagerly awaits Aron's return from Stanford for Thanksgiving, naively believing Aron to be superior to Cal, while remaining oblivious to Aron's unhappiness at Stanford.

chapter 48

Joe Valery persistently plots to control Cathy by using Ethel's blackmail threat as a weapon. Concurrently, Cathy devises plans to expose Joe's disloyalty. Cathy's hand agony has escalated to the point where she carries a small bottle filled with morphine pills around her neck, contemplating suicide as a possible escape.

chapter 49

Aron reaches Salinas, feeling low due to his father's overarching expectations. Concurrently, Cal readies his $15,000 gift for his father, hoping it will earn him Adam's approval. Adam's shock becomes apparent as he unveils the present on Thanksgiving Day. Upon discovering the source of the money - a bean-reselling business - Adam expresses his disapproval and orders Cal to refund the farmers he exploited. Consumed by rage and envy towards Aron, Cal retreats to his room. Heeding Lee's advice, he musters the strength to manage his emotions. Cal seeks forgiveness from his father before encountering Aron, who is returning from Abra's home. Still battling jealousy, Cal reveals something to Aron - he shows him Cathy at her brothel. The following day, a disgusted Aron enlists in the army, unable to cope with the unveiled truth.

chapter 50

Following Aron's visit, Cathy is deeply disturbed and sends a message to the sheriff, suggesting he looks into Joe Valery's fingerprints. She then drafts a will, leaving everything she owns to Aron. As she reminisces about her childhood and dreams of connecting with Alice from Alice in Wonderland, she takes a morphine pill, shrinking like Alice, until her death. The next day, Joe finds Cathy's lifeless body and her will. He seizes Cathy's safe deposit box keys and the compromising photos she used for blackmail. Just as he's about to leave, the sheriff’s deputy shows up, conveying a message from the sheriff who has seen Cathy's letter. Panicked, Joe attempts to escape but is shot by the deputy while trying to flee.

chapter 51

Sheriff Horace Quinn, newly promoted, informs Adam of Cathy's demise. Adam breaks down and wishes to keep Cathy’s will a secret from Aron. Despite Adam's reluctance, the sheriff persuades him to share the news with Aron, whose location is unknown to them all. When queried about his brother's location, Cal responds rudely, pushing Adam into a state of shock. Lee, while browsing a pilfered copy of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, recalls how he acquired it from Samuel Hamilton, who seemed to have turned a blind eye to the theft. He visits Cal, who is drowning his guilt in alcohol and has destroyed the cash his father refused. Lee consoles Cal, emphasizing his normalcy and human imperfections rather than his perceived evil nature. This reassures Cal somewhat. As Lee departs, he finds Adam in a state of shock, holding a postcard from Aron, who announces he's enlisted in the military.

chapter 52

As American soldiers face increased challenges in Europe, Adam's health deteriorates. He grapples with discomfort and loss of feeling in his hand while also dealing with anxiety concerning Aron. Cal converses with Abra, who reveals her love for Aron has faded due to his idealistic worldview centered around stark moral differences. Cal discloses to Abra that Aron is now aware of Cathy's past. Abra's admission is that she was already familiar with Cathy's history and that she's grown feelings for Cal. Despite Cal's self-doubts about his worthiness, Abra hints she values him more because of his moral dilemmas. Meanwhile, Abra's father has become a recluse and consistently avoids a local judge's phone calls. While her mother insists her father is ill, Abra is uncertain about the true nature of his condition. In response, she collects Aron's love letters and destroys them by fire.

chapter 53

Adam confides in Lee about his suspicion that his father, Cyrus, acquired his wealth by swindling the Army. Lee ponders over the paradox: Adam Trask, a man of integrity, living off unlawfully gained wealth, just as Aron Trask, a virtuous man, might end up living off money earned through immoral means. During a visit to Lee, Abra is warmly welcomed by him, and he expresses his desire of being her father. A discussion on military life between Abra and Cal leads to a consensus that, Cal wouldn't fare well as a soldier. Subsequently, Cal plans to leave flowers at Cathy's gravesite.

chapter 54

As Adam gradually recovers, Cal and Abra enjoy a springtime picnic in an azalea-filled area. Abra comforts Cal, assuring him he should harbor no guilt, even concerning Aron. Meanwhile, Lee peruses a seed catalogue, envisioning his future garden. A stranger delivers a telegram bearing tragic news - Aron has fallen in the war. Lee, consumed by anger and branding Aron a coward, breaks the grim news to Adam.

chapter 55

Upon learning of upsetting news, Adam suffers a stroke and is on the brink of death when Cal arrives home. Seeing his father's condition, Cal is filled with sorrow and guilt. Seeking solace in Abra, she tries her best to console him and takes him home. Lee has a firm conversation with Cal and Abra, impressing upon them that they have the power to shape their own lives and should not feel bound by their parents' errors. Lee then accompanies Cal and Abra to bid farewell to the critically ill Adam. Cal's revelation to Aron about their mother was a severe mistake, borne out of his pain of feeling unloved by Adam, Lee explains to Adam. He urges Adam to bestow his blessings on Cal before his death. As Cal looks at Adam, Adam musters all his strength to utter "timshel" before he closes his eyes to rest.

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