East of Eden

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East of Eden Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
One afternoon Faye begs Kate to give up her work—she offers to give Kate a home and a life free from whoring. Kate gently turns her down, calling her “mother” as she does so, which makes Faye cry. Faye tells Kate she loves her, and Kate responds that she loves Faye too. Faye tells Kate to come back later—Faye has a surprise for her.
Kate finally calls Faye “mother”—a gesture she knows will have a huge impression on Faye, who has no children of her own and whose vulnerability Kate can easily exploit. Faye’s loneliness makes her especially vulnerable to Kate’s cruelty and evil manipulation.
Themes
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
That night Kate tells the girls not to come in to see Faye at all—for Faye is quite ill, but wants to keep it a secret. The Girls are worried but agree not to bother Faye. Then Kate puts on a pretty dress, takes a gold watch out of her dresser drawer, and goes to Faye’s door. The room is decorated as if for a party. Faye is delighted to see Kate, and even more delighted when Kate gives her the watch. It is engraved “To C. With all my heart, from A,” and Kate tells Faye it used to be her mother’s watch.
Kate gives Faye the watch that Adam gave her. She weaves a web of lies and manipulation by exploiting the love and loneliness of those around her. The watch underscores that Adam’s weakness—his blind desire for love and romance—is the same as Faye’s weakness. She desires a daughter just as Adam desired a wife, and Kate is perfectly suited to exploit this desire.
Themes
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Faye then tells Kate she is going to give her a present now. Faye takes out a sheet of paper and hands it to Kate: it is a will, in which Faye simply leaves all of her worldly possessions to Kate. Kate grows silent, and Faye asks her what’s wrong. Kate says she doesn’t like to think about Faye’s death, and she doesn’t know if she can accept such a present. Faye insists, and pours Kate a drink. Kate tries to refuse, saying she has always been made sick by alcohol of any kind. But Faye insists, and Kate takes a glass, then two, and she feels a change come over her.
Faye tells Kate that she has willed all of her belongings to her. It seems like this must have been Kate’s master plan all along. The novel presents inheritance as dubious, a way of quantifying relationships that can be apart from the emotional bonds that typically unite family members. Anyone can be named in a will and receive an inheritance, but to truly consider someone family requires a much deeper bond.
Themes
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Money, Wealth, and the Value of Work Theme Icon
Kate’s filters and defenses break down. She begins to spit cruel insults at Faye, calling her fat and ugly and stupid, and forcing Faye to drink more and more liquor. Kate begins to detail to Faye what she does in the bedroom with her customers—she describes a depraved scene; Kate whips and humiliates men, who beg her for more pain, more degradation. Faye begins to howl loudly, and Kate shuts her up. Faye tells her to leave the house, to never come back. Kate pours more drink down Faye’s throat, and Faye finally passes out.
Kate reveals the kind of work she’s been doing at the brothel—it is even more depraved than Faye anticipated. Kate is not only offering men sex, she is offering them depravity, humiliation, and violence. Once again we see that Kate has exploited human loneliness in order to impose her evil influence.
Themes
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
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Kate begins to sober up and a feeling of dread comes over her. Kate puts Faye in her bed and undresses her Then she takes a cloth soaked in ammonia and places it over Faye’s mouth. The fumes wake Faye up, and Kate soothingly comforts her, telling her it’s only a nightmare and to go back to sleep. Faye falls back into a stupor, and Kate waits a little while, then repeats this process. She draws Faye in and out of sleep, and every time Faye wakes up, Kate comforts her, saying that she’s had a nightmare, and should go back to sleep. Faye comes to believe that it really was only a nightmare.
Kate ingeniously corrects her own mistake by drugging Faye and inducing strange dreams. This scene recalls the earlier scene where she drugged Adam in order to have sex with his brother Charles. As with Adam we get the sense that Faye is in fact asleep; that she has indulged in a dreamlike vision of Kate as her daughter.
Themes
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon