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Free Study Guide-East of Eden by John Steinbeck-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapter 20

Part 3

Kate felt a dread come over her when she realized what she had said and done. She tried to go over all that had happened during the evening and figure out what to do to remedy the damage she had caused to Faye’s trust. First she went to the kitchen and drank a mustard mixture to help her vomit the alcohol out of her stomach. Then she went to Faye’s room and looked in her medicine chest. She found ammonia and dampened a handkerchief with it. She held it over Faye’s face, making her wake half-way. When Faye groaned, Kate told Faye she must be having a nightmare; then she let her go back to sleep.

As Faye slept, Kate straightened the room up and carried the glasses to the kitchen. She then went back to Faye’s room and repeated the procedure with the ammonia three times. She next took a crochet hook and poked Faye’s body in all its most sensitive places, bringing her nearly to a waking state. She whispered to Faye that she was having a bad dream. Kate opened the door, went back to the bed, and poured water in Faye’s ear, making her scream. Kate rushed out the door and then re-entered, acting as if she were just coming in. Hearing the scream, Ethel, one of the prostitutes, opened her door in alarm and the cook came in. Kate told them that Faye was having bad dreams and she was taking care of her. She ordered the cook to bring tea. As all of the prostitutes gathered, they spoke about Kate’s devotion to Faye. When Faye woke up, Kate asked her what her dreams were about, but Faye would not tell her because they were so bad.


Notes

Although the reader senses that Kate is planning on doing something to Faye, the narrator is not able to reveal her thoughts; however, when she drinks the champagne, Kate reveals her own evil intentions. It is a useful device for Steinbeck to employ because it lets him reveal the private life of a character that is so guarded with her emotions and plans that she tells no one. In order to give the reader information on such a closed character, the writer must reveal the character’s thoughts, something that is closed to a first-person narration, or make the character reveal her thoughts to others. Kate reveals her secrets only when drunk. Steinbeck has used this technique two times in the novel.

Steinbeck adds another feature to Kate’s degenerate nature-- sadomasochism. Since Kate killed her own parents, was precociously sexual by the time she was ten, became a prostitute, shot her husband, and abandoned her infant children two weeks after birth, it is not shocking that she also is a sadomasochist. Neither is it shocking that she tries to manipulate Faye into believing that she has dreamed the whole thing. Still, her meticulous and cold calculation is disturbing. It is also ironic that the other prostitutes comment on Kate’s devotion to Faye.

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