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Free Study Guide-East of Eden by John Steinbeck-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapter 17

Summary

Part 1

The narrator questioned if Cathy was really a monster. He thought perhaps that no one understood her motivations or fears. During her pregnancy, Cathy stayed still and watched her stomach grow abnormally large. It was as if she had vacated her body, becoming "a breathing doll." Even though she said little to Adam, he told Cathy everything that was going on with the wells and the windmills. He also told the Hamiltons everything that was going on with Cathy’s pregnancy. It was a good time for Adam. He felt like a king.

Part 2

As the Hamiltons dug into the ground for the second well, the drilling stopped when their bit was damaged. When they brought the drill up, they found the bit mangled by something it had struck. Samuel grew excited, wondering what it might be. He guessed it might be nickel or silver. In truth, it was the remains of a meteor, and they would have to do more work to determine its proportions.

Suddenly Lee came riding up, telling Samuel to come quickly because Mrs. Trask had gone into labor and seemed to be engaged in a bitter, deadly combat rather than a birth. Samuel tried to calm the man down, explaining that labor always took longer than expected. He also told Lee that he did not have to talk pidgin around his sons. Lee then confessed that he felt there was something very strange about Mrs. Trask, which he could not explain rationally. Samuel told him that he felt the same way.

Part 3

When Samuel arrived at the house, Cathy and Adam were in the bedroom in the dark. Samuel tried to open the curtains to let in some light, but Cathy insisted that they stay closed. Samuel said that if they did not let him do what he needed to do that he would leave. He then sent Adam out of the room, telling him not to come back. When he turned to Cathy, he saw that she was looking at him with a vicious hatred. He told her it would not take long and asked her questions to get his bearings on the situation, but she refused to answer. He reminded her that he would leave if she did not cooperate, but if he stayed he could save her some pain. Cathy’s face changed almost instantly, and Samuel shivered at her sudden transformation to the appearance of a young and innocent girl. She told him her water had broken at dawn and that she had been in hard labor since then. When he put his hand on her forehead to check her temperature, he asked her how she got the scar. In response, she bit his hand so hard he could not get her to release it. He cut off her breath with his other hand until she had no choice but to release her bite. She then returned to her innocent look and apologized. He poured whiskey on the bite mark and wrapped it up.


After she had given birth, Samuel told Adam that Cathy must be made of whalebone, for the delivery was easy. He sent Adam to the kitchen to boil water and make coffee, and he called for Lee. Suddenly Samuel realized there was another baby coming. The twins were boys, which would not be identical since they were born in separate sacks. Samuel tried to avoid looking at Cathy’s face, but when he did, he saw it was stony and expressionless. He was also amazed that she refused to look at the babies. When he told her she would change, she told Samuel to leave, "take the light away," and send Adam in. The truthful Samuel told Cathy he did not like her. He then took the babies and left the room.

When Samuel went out, he and Lee cleaned the babies and put them down in the living room. Lee then helped Samuel with his hand. They cut the flesh around the puncture marks and poured medicine on the wound. Lee confessed to Samuel that he was thinking about going away, for something was not right at the Trasks. Samuel understood his concern, for he also felt a dreadfulness coming on. He wished his practical wife were present, for if Liza sensed anything wrong, she would know what to do.

Adam entered Cathy’s room and turned on the lights. Cathy protested and told him that he had to turn off the lights and be quiet if he wanted to stay with her.

After checking on the sleeping babies, Samuel went outside. He saw Rabbit, one of the workers, who inquired about Mrs. Trask. Samuel explained that she had given birth to twins. He then told Rabbit about the meteor they had found.

Liza Hamilton arrived at the Trasks at four o’clock in the morning. She told her husband to get the doctor from King City and then go back home to rest. She then announced which of her sons would stay with their father and which would stay at the ranch with her. Samuel departed, happy to have Liza’s practicality that helped to dispel his bad feelings. At home, Samuel fell into a fever for three days. His son Tom took care of him.

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