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Free Study Guide-East of Eden by John Steinbeck-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapter 21

Part 4

On a Saturday in October, Kate brought Faye her tonic, which was Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound. She told Faye there was a fly in the glass, and she would wash it out in the kitchen. In the kitchen, she took out an eyedropper and squeezed out a few drops of nux vomica (a plant extract that contains strychnine, a poison). In Faye’s room, she gave Faye the mixture. Faye said it tasted bitter. Kate poured a spoonful from the bottle and agreed. She said the bottle must have been sitting too long and she would throw it out. At supper, Faye started feeling bad. The other women noticed she was flushed. The next day, Kate insisted they eat lightly. She made Faye a special string bean salad from the newly canned vegetable stock. On the salad dressing, she placed several drops of croton oil, which causes violent vomiting. She went to her own room and swallowed the contents of a small bottle of Cascara Sagrada (a plant used as a stimulant, cathartic, and laxative) and then went back to the kitchen. Kate became sick first and doubled over with pain. Faye called everyone in to help Kate to bed. Then Faye became sick. When Dr. Wilde arrived, he said the women were suffering from botulism and told them to throw out every jar of string beans.


Faye never got better even though Kate watched over her tirelessly. The other women said Kate would probably kill herself if Faye died. One night Dr. Wilde told her she needed to prepare herself for Faye’s death. That night, Kate took two bottles from her pocket and gave a mixture to Faye; it was strong enough to kill her. Then Kate went and crushed all the little bottles and buried them.

When Faye died, Kate acted so violently that they had to tie her down. She also pretended that she had forgotten about the will until Trixie reminded her.

Notes

In this chapter, it is clear that Kate is in control of Faye and her house of prostitution. Her cunning manipulation of Faye’s feelings and health is astonishing. While she is slowly killing Faye, Kate makes everyone else believe in her goodness. Her pretension is so good that the other prostitutes believe that Kate may kill herself if Faye dies. By the time Kate’s plan reaches its conclusion, she has convinced everyone that she loves Faye more than her own life. To prove her grief over Faye’s death, she reacts so violently that she must be tied down. She also pretends to forget about the will.

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