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Free Study Guide-East of Eden by John Steinbeck-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapter 40

Summary

Part 1

After Cal left, Kate felt very nervous. She thought about Charles Trask and Samuel Hamilton, both of whom had recognized the truth about her. As she felt the capsule of morphine around her neck, Kate repeatedly said Calís last words to her, "You are afraid." The words bothered her greatly.

Part 2

Soon after Kate had collected the money Charles had left her, she began to feel pain. Her hands grew worse each day.

One day Kate was visited by Ethel, a woman who worked for her at the time she was working for Faye. Ethel looked as though she were living on the edge of poverty. She explained that after Kate fired her, she never recovered. Kate offered her forty dollars, but Ethel said she had hoped for much more. She then proceeded to blackmail Kate. She told Kate that on the night Faye died, she saw Kate go out back and bury something. The next morning she went and dug up the crushed bottles and dropper, which she still had in her possession. Ethel then demanded that Kate give her a hundred dollars a month. Kate agreed to send her the money at the first of each month.


The next morning Ethel was in front of the judge, charged with theft. The judge told her this was one too many times that she had been in trouble. He ordered the sheriff to drive her out of the county. Knowing that Kate had her hand in this, Ethel told the judge that she had been framed, but he did not believe her.

Part 3

At first, Kate was not disturbed by Ethelís visit, but she gradually became restless about it. She worried that Ethel might tell her story to others and give the bottles to someone else. Kate also began to think about Charles Trask and felt his presence with her. She began to wonder if she was safe and grew afraid to go outside.

Notes

Kateís fear and anxiety, which stem from her thoughts about the past, increase to the point that she seldom goes outside. The visits from Ethel and Cal only make things worse for her. Even the morphine does not dull her fear and pain. It is appropriate that the evil character in the book is degenerating as the good characters are flourishing. Steinbeck is making a clear statement, through Adam, Aaron, and Cal, that good does triumph over evil.

It is also ironic that Kate, the master manipulator, is manipulated by Ethel. Kate, however, has the last word when she uses her influence to have Ethel arrested and driven out of the county. It may be her last hurrah.

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