East of Eden

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East of Eden Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Adam begins turning his grand plans into a reality. He starts building up a grand house. Like everyone else in California at that time, he can think only of the future. He has a great appetite for life, and is ecstatically in love with Cathy. Meanwhile, Cathy’s greatest virtue as a criminal is her patience; she endures her pregnancy and waits diligently for her opportunity to escape. Adam’s Chinese servant Lee is suspicious of her, but Adam notices nothing.
Adam goes about his day oblivious to Cathy’s hatred. Note how expertly she uses time to her advantage—patience is her greatest criminal virtue. She is “waiting out” her pregnancy and looking for the optimal time to escape.
Themes
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
One day Adam sends Lee to the Hamilton house to fetch Sam. Lee obliges and as he and Sam are traveling back to Adam’s property, Sam asks Lee when he moved to America. Lee tells him—in very broken English—that he was born here. Sam wonders why Lee never perfected his English. Lee then begins to speak in a flawless American accent, and explains he speaks pidgin English because meeting people’s expectations is easier than defying them. Sam says he sometimes does the same thing, playing the part of the boisterous Irishman even when he is feeling solemn.
Lee is one of the novel’s deepest and most complex characters. Because he is an outsider, he has a keen eye for how people cling to preconceptions and stereotypes. Not surprisingly, Sam is the only character whom Lee trusts enough to reveal his true self to—Sam’s powers of perception are unmatched by anyone (except for Lee himself) in the book.
Themes
Identity Theme Icon
Sam asks Lee why is he content to be a servant. Lee says a man not only learns a great deal from being a servant—about life, about human nature—but also that servants wield a great deal of power. Masters are so dependent on servants that a servant—even if he is not very good—enjoys utter security. He then confides in Sam that though he enjoys life as a servant, he has always dreamed of opening a bookstore in San Francisco.
Lee explains that a servant’s life is like an education in human nature, and indeed Lee will become a kind of authority on what it means to be human. He is in many ways the mouthpiece for the book’s most important points about good, evil, love, loneliness, and meaning.
Themes
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Money, Wealth, and the Value of Work Theme Icon
Sam and Adam wander around the property looking for water. Sam carries a stick with him that, like a magic wand, seems drawn to the ground when there is water to be found beneath it. Sam finds a great deal of water on Adam’s property and says he has no doubt he could drill a well. Adam asks for three wells—he tells Sam he means to build a garden, a kind of paradise, and make Catherine into his Eve. Sam pokes fun at Adam’s naiveté, but promises he will find him water.
The biblical allegory becomes overt—Adam imagines himself as the original man, building a paradise to live in with his wife Eve. Adam seems to miss the irony that in the Bible, Eve was responsible for the fall of man into sin and despair. At the same time, Eve was responsible for self-knowledge: the apple she took in the Garden of Eden was from the tree of knowledge. In the novel, Catherine teaches Adam about the nature of human evil.
Themes
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
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Adam invites Sam to dinner. Sam agrees, but finds dinner to be excruciatingly awkward. He sees something terrifying in Cathy, but cannot put his finger on what it is. Her cold distance gives him the shivers. He quickly finishes his dinner and excuses himself. On his way out he asks Lee if he’s noticed anything “creepy” going on around this house. Lee doesn’t answer him directly, but asks him if he happens to need a cook.
Sam and Lee, the story’s most perceptive characters, are fearful of Cathy, but unwilling to voice their concerns outright. Their cryptic conversation conjures a feeling of impending doom—Cathy’s evil has been lurking under the surface, and the moment that this tension will come to a head seems to be nearing.
Themes
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Adam and Cathy sit under a tree as the sun sets. Adam describes to her all of his plans to plant wheat and alfalfa and to have a great garden. Cathy quietly tells him that she plans to leave as soon as she can. Adam laughs this off, and tells her she will feel differently after the baby.
What’s remarkable about the tension between Adam and Cathy is that Cathy is not really being deceptive—she flat out tells Adam she will abandon him. The problem lies with Adam—he refuses to see anything bad in his life.
Themes
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon