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

Part 2

The talk with Adam greatly affected Cal. He felt happy and smiled all the time. The talk also made him curious about his mother, so he decided to learn more about her. He watched Kateís house for weeks and found that she always went out at the same time and to the same places every Monday. One day she noticed that Cal was following her and asked why. When he told her he was her son, she asked him to come inside, where she led him to a dark room. She explained that the light bothered her eyes. When she took off her gloves, Cal noticed her hands were wrapped in bandages. She told him she had arthritis.

Kate asked him about Aaron. Cal explained that Aaron looked like her and that he wanted to be a minister. When she asked if Aaron was dull, Cal said he was good, not dull. When Kate asked about Adam, Cal answered that he would not talk about his father. When she realized how much Cal loved him, she was shaken by a spasm. After Kate regained control, Cal asked her why she had shot Adam and left. She explained that he had tried to keep her against her will.


Kate told Cal that everyone used to think they knew her, but she had fooled everyone. She then bragged about making people do what she wanted them to do, including Adam. She claimed that no one had been able to trap her and suggested that perhaps Cal was the same way. Cal asked Kate if she ever had the feeling she was missing something when she was little, as if other people knew something she did not. When she heard this, a funny look came across her face. Cal turned to leave, feeling glad that he was his own person and did not have to be like Kate. As he left the dark room, he realized that the light did not hurt her eyes. He told Kate that she avoided the light because she was afraid. Although he did not hate his mother, Cal was glad that she was fearful.

Notes

The novel reaches a turning point in this chapter. Wanting to be happy and feel good about himself, Cal confronts his mother and sees that he is not really like her. His movement towards goodness is caused by his fatherís interest in him and acceptance of who he is.

After Adam gets Cal out of jail, for being at the wrong place at the wrong time, the two of them have a long talk for the first time ever. The conversation accomplishes several things. First Adam admits his failure as a father, which makes Caleb see him as a real human being rather than as an aloof hero. Next, Adam recognizes Cal for who he is and accepts his uniqueness, not expecting him to be like Aaron; this acceptance releases Cal from his jealousy over Aaron and allows him to truly love his brother. Finally, Adam convinces Cal that he has goodness inside, just like Aaron, as proven by the fact that he has never told Aaron about Kate and by the fact that Cal wants to help Aaron pay for his university education. When Adam tells Cal that he trusts him, the dark twin suddenly become better and brighter, seeing himself in a new image of goodness.

With the new strength that Adam has given him, Cal feels prepared to meet and face his mother. For weeks, he watches her house and follows her when she goes out on errands each Monday. When she realizes she is being followed, she asks Cal what he wants and is surprised to learn that the boy is her son. She invites him back to her room. There in the darkness, Cal sees Kate for what she is - a degenerate and fearful woman who has lived her life evilly manipulating others. He, however, refuses to be manipulated by her. When he leaves her room, he knows that he will never allow himself to be evil like Kate. Unlike her, he has a conscience and knows how to love, just like Adam and Aaron.

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