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Free Study Guide-East of Eden by John Steinbeck-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapter 24

Summary

Part 1

Although Liza accepted Una’s death with her usual fatalism, she knew Samuel was deeply affected by it. She began to watch over him as if she were his mother. When she learned about the children’s plan to take them in, she was pleased, for she was tired and her bones ached. In addition, she was not attached to the place like Samuel, who felt like he was killing something precious by leaving his land.

Samuel decided to tell all the neighbors that he and Liza were leaving the farm. He visited the Trask ranch last. It was hard for him to believe that the twins were now eleven years old. Caleb, called Cal, was sharp, dark, and cautious. The likable Aaron was an opposite of his brother. In spite of the intervening years, Adam was still morose. Samuel challenged him to consider whether he was taking pride in his hurt. Adam said he was simply afraid to do anything. He then told Samuel that he had heard that Cathy was in Salinas, but he did believe the rumor. Samuel scolded Adam for never letting Cathy go and told him to find a new Cathy.

When Samuel told Adam he was leaving his land at his children’s insistence, Adam said he wished Samuel could stay and work his "guts out on that old dust heap," for he knew he loved the place. Adam also offered Samuel the chance to stay with him to help him make a garden, but he refused.

Part 2

At dinner, Samuel got to know the twins. Aaron talked easily, but Caleb was more reserved. Aaron said he liked to raise Belgian hares, and Samuel thought about Abel, the shepherd. Samuel then wondered if Caleb liked to work the land, like Cain, the farmer. After the boys left, the men talked about the Cain and Abel story. Lee said he had compared the story in two versions of the Bible, looking specifically at one passage. In the King James Version, God seems to promise that Cain would conquer sin; but in the American Standard Version, Cain is ordered by God to conquer sin. Since Lee had worried over this discrepancy, he decided to consult the scholars of his family, who studied the discrepancy for two years, learning Hebrew and working with two rabbis. They finally came to the understanding that in Hebrew, the word in question is "timshel," which means, "Thou mayest." Lee found this to be an amazing revelation. It meant that people had free will to sin or not to sin. This new insight into humankind gave Lee a new appreciation of his fellow man.


Part 3

As Lee and Adam walked Samuel out to the shed to say good-bye, they talked about Samuel’s thirty-three year old horse named Doxology. Samuel suddenly changed the subject, asking Adam if he liked his life. When Adam failed to say anything, Samuel knew the answer. He then told Adam he had a medicine that might help him, but the cure might also kill him. Adam urged him to give it to him. Samuel then told Adam the truth about Cathy. He explained that she ran the most degraded house of prostitution in Salinas. Hearing the news, Adam ran away in great distress. Lee wondered if it was a good idea for Samuel to have told Adam the truth. Samuel said there was a remedy on the old ranches for a dog that has eaten strychnine. The farmer would chop off the dog’s tail, and the pain of the amputation would fight the poison. Samuel hoped that his news about Cathy would help Adam fight the pain. Lee praised Samuel’s bravery and said he had not seen that side of Samuel before. Samuel said Lee’s lesson about people choosing their paths gave him the courage to tell Adam. When Samuel left, Lee rode with him for a while and walked back.

Notes

Several important things happen in this chapter. First, the plot is advanced, for Adam learns the truth about Cathy. His next decision, whether to let go of Cathy, will determine the direction of his life and the novel. Additionally, the theme of the novel is developed. The Cain and Abel story, which had earlier been depicted as a terrible determinism in which Cain was fated to kill his brother, is seen in a new light. God granted Cain the freedom to overcome sin if he so chose, lifting the determinism and allowing hope. Since Caleb is destined to be a Cain figure, there is now hope for him in the story since he can choose his path. Finally, the patriarch of the novel, Samuel Hamilton, rides off into the night with death seemingly surrounding him. Lee knows he will never return to the Trask place and realizes his last brave act was his effort to set Adam free from his attachment to Cathy by telling him the truth. Lee has a new respect for the old man.

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