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Free Study Guide-East of Eden by John Steinbeck-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapter 50

Summary

Joe grew nervous as Kate sat and stared hour after hour. He realized that she had not been to bed the night before and knew she had not eaten breakfast. What he did not know was that Kate was reviewing images from the night before when Aaron screamed at her in shock. She also saw the image of Cal leaning against the wall and laughing. She had laughed as well, as a way to protect herself. She could not understand why Cal had brought Aaron.

Kate’s hand was aching when Joe came in with tea. When he asked her if she needed anything, she told him to cut her hands off at the wrists, for she felt hopeless with all the pain. Joe decided it was time to act. He told Kate he had seen a man who told him about Ethel being in town. He said the man asked him to find out about Faye. When Kate asked him if he knew about Faye, Joe said he did not. Kate challenged him, saying Joe certainly knew Faye used to run her place. Joe, feeling trapped, tried to get out of the situation by saying that he thought her name was Faith. Kate laughed. Then she asked him in a plaintive voice if he could help her fix everything if she gave him ten thousand dollars. He said no and left.

Part 2

Kate wrote a note to the sheriff telling him to check Joe Valery’s fingerprints. She called Therese in and asked her to run some errands, including dropping the letter to the sheriff in the mail. Kate also told Therese that she would soon be going to the hospital. When Therese was gone, Kate’s thoughts went back to Aaron. Thinking of him triggered a memory of herself as a little girl. As a child, she had discovered Alice in Wonderland and found in it a relief from her loneliness. She had imagined Alice and herself shrinking themselves, becoming best friends, and skipping arm in arm.


Kate thought about herself in relation to others. First, she knew she was different and had something others lacked. Then she thought of Cal, which made believe she lacked something others had. In her restlessness, she went out to see the women, who were gathered at the table. Her smile upset them, as if it were a scream. She told them she needed to sleep a long time and did not want to be disturbed no matter what. She went back to her room, and wrote her will: "I leave everything I have to my son Aaron Trask." She dated and signed it Catherine Trask. She felt happy, as if she were going to a party. She took the capsule out of the tube that hung from her neck and put it in her mouth. As she thought of Alice in Wonderland, she felt herself getting smaller and smaller until she disappeared.

Part 3

Even though Joe felt that Kate had caught him, he managed the house until it closed down at two in the morning. He then went to bed and sat up reading The Winning of Barbara Worth. At daylight, he went downstairs, made coffee, and tried to plan his next strategy with Kate. He knocked on her door. When Kate did not answer, he went in and saw she had not slept in her bed. He opened the door of the lean-to and found her dead. He then went back to her room and started taking her things. Finding the will, he put it in his pocket. He then took the gold chain from around Kate’s neck with her safety deposit keys. He found the photographs of the men from whom Kate was extorting money and took them as well. Just then, the sheriff’s deputy knocked and asked Joe to come to the sheriff’s office with him. Joe went quietly but tried to escape once they were outside. When he ran, the deputy shot him.

Notes

Before her death, Kate gives details about Aaron’s visit to her house of prostitution. The previous night, Cal, in his hurt and jealousy, had brought Aaron to face the truth. As his brother screamed at their mother in shock and horror, Cal leaned against the wall and laughed, again becoming a Cain figure out to destroy "his Abel." The encounter affects Kate deeply. She stays awake all night, unable to sleep and thinking about Aaron.

Kate’s suicide brings to a close the tension she has brought to the plot, but her will brings a new twist on the relation she had with the Trask men. In Aaron, she saw her opposite - a pure and innocent being. As a result, she leaves him everything. The reader wonders if she is not subconsciously trying to corrupt him, to bring him down to her level.

As she approaches death, Kate goes back to her childhood fears and how she coped with them. As a child, she was lonely and believed that the world hated her. Her escape was to imagine herself so small that she entered another dimension where she was a friend to Alice in Wonderland. When she finally takes the morphine, which she has worn around her neck for years, she feels herself growing smaller, much like she did as a child. Then she feels herself disappear.

It is significant that before her death Kate takes care of the double- crossing Joe. She writes a letter to the sheriff asking him to check the fingerprints of Joe Valery. After Joe finds Kate dead and is pillaging her room, the deputy enters to take him to the sheriff’s office. When he tries to run, the deputy shoots and kills Joe. Even in death, Kate has the final word.

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