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Free Study Guide-East of Eden by John Steinbeck-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapter 55

Summary

Part 1

When Cal got home that evening, he found Lee shriveled up like a leaf sitting beside a lamp. Lee told Cal his brother was dead, and his father had had a stroke. When the doctor came out from tending Adam, he told Cal he must now function as the head of the family, for Adamís condition was very serious. When Cal went into Adamís room, he told his father that everything was his fault. He admitted that he had forced his brother to see Kate, which caused Aaron to run from reality by joining the military. Cal said he was also responsible for Adamís poor health. He said he never wanted to do bad things, but he always seemed to do them.

A nurse, filled with false cheer, entered the room and called Lee "Charley." She told him to fill her list of needs for things for Adam. Lee and Cal left the room so she could take care of the patient. Lee tried to calm Cal by fixing him a meal, but Cal could not eat. Lee told Cal he was strong enough to withstand his pain, even though it would be difficult. When Cal told Lee that he had confessed to Adam, Lee said that his fatherís brain was damaged so badly that he probably did not understand Calís explanation. If Adam ever got better, Lee felt certain that he would forgive Cal. Lee then told Cal to go to Abra.

Part 2

When Cal went to Abraís house and rang the bell, her mother came to the door and told him he had to leave. Even though he yelled at her, she would not let him see Abra. As he walked away, Abra caught up with him. He told her he killed his brother and paralyzed his father; he also said his mother was a whore. She tried to comfort him by reminding him that her own father was a thief.

Cal led Abra to the willow tree where she and Aaron used to hide as children. She said she would not go in there with Cal, for she felt that he needed to go back to his fatherís house. Abra agreed to go with him.

Part 3

Lee knew Abra would bring Cal home, and he had his special Chinese liquor waiting for them. As they sat and talked, Abra begged Lee to help Cal. Lee said he did not know how much he could help, for he did not accept things well. He said when Samuel Hamilton died, he had felt a light go out in the world.

Lee then tried to convince Lee and Abra that they did not have to be like their parents; they were their own people and could become whatever they desired. Lee then led them to Adamís bedroom. When the nurse started chattering, Lee told her to hush and go out of the room. She told him she would not take orders from "Chinks." Cal then demanded that she go.


Lee called Adamís name and asked if he could hear him. Adam made a sign that he could. He then told Adam to look at Caleb, his only son. Lee then told Adam that Cal had done something in anger because he thought his father had rejected him. He told Adam his son was marked with more guilt than he could bear. He asked Adam to give Cal his blessing. Suddenly Adamís eyes shone brightly. With much concentration and effort, he was able to lift his hand in a blessing. Lee told Adam to form Calís name on his lips. Adam tried a number of times and finally formed the word timshel. Then he slept.

Notes

The novel closes on the word timshel, the Hebrew word meaning "you may." It refers to the earlier discussion between Lee, Adam, and Samuel and concerns manís freedom of choice. It indicates that Cal is in control and can choose to live in goodness in spite of his guilt. The blessing that his father gives him is the most precious gift he could receive and will spur him to become a better person.

Lee has been an instrumental character throughout the novel, serving as surrogate mother and protector of the twins, confidante of Adam, healer of the sick and wounded, and philosopher about life. In this chapter, Lee serves as the catalyst for the resolution of the novel. It is because of Lee that Cal finally receives his fatherís blessing; it is because of Lee that he and Abra are together; it is because of Lee, who has taught him that he can choose the path of goodness, that Cal can forgive himself. The nurseís slur against Adam is particularly jarring because Lee has proven himself to be the best and strongest character in the novel.

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