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Free Study Guide-East of Eden by John Steinbeck-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapter 39

Summary

Part 1

Salinas underwent a brief burst of morality, and gambling was targeted as the vice to be eradicated. The citizens targeted gambling for two reasons: it could be discussed in polite society, unlike prostitution; and since gambling was run by Chinese Americans, no whites would be hurt by an attack on it.

Cal often stood and watched the gambling when he wandered at night. One time he got caught up in a raid and ended up in jail. Adam was called and came to the jail to get Cal. When they got home, Aaron had left for school and Lee disappeared to let them have their privacy. As Father and son sat at the table in silence, Cal grew more and more nervous. Finally, he jumped up and told his father to do whatever he was going to do to him so that it would be over and done with. Adam answered quietly with a question: "Iíve failed you, havenít I?" Then he sadly said that he did not really know Cal. Cal wanted to throw his arms around Adam. Instead, he told his father he could ask him anything, and he would tell him all there was to tell. Adam said he was a bad father, just like his own father had been. Cal told him not to be sad, for he had already had enough of sorrow.

Cal asked if Adam was angry about his being in jail. Adam laughed and said that Cal was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Adam then told Cal that he had been a prisoner for nearly a year for being in the wrong place. Cal found the news hard to believe, but he felt a new closeness to his father that he never wanted to lose. Next, Adam told Cal about Samuel Hamilton striking him for being a bad father to the twins. Cal told him that he and Aaron never thought he was a bad father.


Cal told Adam he was glad he had been thrown in jail, for it brought the two of them together. Adam laughed and said he was also glad. Adam then asked Cal to tell him about himself. When Cal had trouble expressing himself, Adam asked him to tell him what kind of boy Aaron was. Cal easily explained that Aaron was a good boy who never had bad thoughts. Cal then said he was not like Aaron, for he had bad thoughts and did bad things. Adam told Cal it was clear to him that Cal was at war with himself, as if he were ashamed of who he was. He asked if Cal thought Aaron was ever ashamed of himself. Cal said Aaron had nothing to be ashamed of. Adam asked if Cal would protect Aaron from anything bad or cruel or ugly that he knew. Cal said he would, for Aaron was good and needed protection. He then explained that he sometimes did mean things to his brother even though he truly loved him. Adam asked him if he was miserable about it afterwards. Cal said he always felt guilty. Adam then asked if Aaron was ever miserable. Cal could only think of two incidents. One was the time when Cal did not want to join the church with Aaron. The other was the time when Aaron thought of becoming a monk and Abra had gotten very angry with him.

Adam called Lee to make coffee, but Lee did not answer. Cal jumped up to make the coffee, eager to help his father. As he worked on the coffee, Cal felt that the poison of loneliness, hurt, and envy had gone out of him. He felt clean and sweet. While Cal was in the kitchen, Adam sat in the dining room and thought about his sons and the future. Returning with the coffee, Cal asked his father if he could run the ranch when he got out of school. Adam asked him what Aaron would think. Cal said Aaron wanted to go to the university, and he could help Aaron pay for his education by turning a profit on the ranch. Adam was amazed at Calís generosity.

Adam asked Cal if he ever disliked Aaron. Cal admitted that in the past there were times when he had hated Aaron and intentionally hurt him; but he felt that he would never hate him again. Cal added that he did not think he would ever hate anyone again, not even his mother. Adam calmly asked what Cal knew about his mother. Cal admitted that he knew all about her and had even seen her. He promised that he had never told Aaron about her and never would, for he had so much good in him that he would never be able to understand her. Adam told Cal he trusted him.

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