East of Eden

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East of Eden Chapter 38 Summary & Analysis

Cal craves affection, but it seems Aron is always better loved than he is. He does not have friends and lives his life alone. He takes to wandering about town late at night—people find it odd, but he doesn’t seem to be making trouble, and so it is tolerated. One night Cal meets up with the town drunk, who becomes confused about who Cal is and invites him to go to Kate’s place with him. Cal goes. What Cal sees the women doing at Kate’s doesn’t make him sick, but the faces of the men who watch them does.
Cal suffers from loneliness just like everyone else. Eventually his wandering lands him in his mother’s whorehouse. Notice how Cal is not disgusted by the acts of the women, but rather by the expressions on the faces of the men watching. Depravity doesn’t revolt him; the men who succumb to depravity do. Cal is afraid he is like these men, that he will not be able to resist his darker impulses.
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Following this incident Cal approaches Lee and boldly tells him he knows where his mother is. Lee answers all of Cal’s questions truthfully, and Cal learns the story of his mother’s violent departure. Cal asks Lee what his mother is like, and Lee tells him she is missing something: kindness or conscience perhaps. But, Lee continues, Adam has almost too much kindness and conscience in him, and when Cathy left, something died inside Adam. Cal begins to shake, and Lee asks him what is the matter. Cal tells Lee he loves his father. Lee says he loves Adam too. Then Cal reveals his worry: that he has his mother’s evil in him. Lee takes Cal by the shoulders and shakes him, telling him everyone has evil in them, but everyone has good in them too, and Cal must always remember this. Cal agrees. Cal knows he can never tell Aron about his mother—Aron is not strong enough to handle it.
Cal receives important advice from Lee: everyone has evil in them. Everyone is like Cathy Trask in some respect. But Cal undoubtedly has good in him too—his desire to be good is a testament to his goodness, for we are defined by our choices. Though he and his father are not alike, Cal loves his father deeply—he loves him so much it makes him shake and cry. The reader can see that there is something ominous in this love—for God’s rejection of Cain drove him to commit murder, and it is obvious that, should Cal be rejected by his father, it would upset him terribly as well.
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