East of Eden

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East of Eden Chapter 49 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At Thanksgiving time, Adam, Lee, Cal, and Abra go to the train station to greet Aron. Adam is anxious to see his son and hopes that everything is set up perfectly for him at home. Aron gives Abra an enormous hug when he sees her, and then shakes the rest of his family’s hands vigorously. That night Aron finds Cal wrapping a gift in tissue paper. Cal keeps the contents of the gift a secret. Aron tells Cal he is thinking of dropping out of college. Cal is appalled—he tells Aron not to be rash, and to at least sleep on it.
Already the holiday is not going as Cal has planned it. Aron tells him he is thinking of dropping out of college, which would lessen the value of Cal’s gift. Given that the rejection of Cal’s gift would spell disaster, Aron’s admitting that he no longer wants to attend college has ominous implications indeed.
Themes
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
Cal plans out every detail regarding the present, which is 15 thousand dollars in gold certificates, from his business venture with Will Hamilton. But on the day of Thanksgiving, Aron asks for Lee to delay the meal which messes up Cal’s carefully calibrated timeline. Cal succumbs to angry thoughts—he hates his father for loving Aron better, and knows Aron is only the favorite because he looks like Catherine, whom Adam will never get over. He bitterly chides himself for trying to buy his father’s love. But he controls himself, warns himself against enjoying anger and sadness, and decides to give the day to Aron. After making this peace, Cal sets about procuring champagne and wine for the dinner celebration.
Cal begins to crack—like Cain, he becomes enraged at the idea that he is less loved than his brother for no good reason. He grows full of hatred, self-loathing, anger, and jealousy. But, unlike the original Cain, Cal is able to overcome this wave of anger, and accept that the day will revolve around Aron. We see him exercising the great choice between good and evil that, according to Lee, makes humanity great.
Themes
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
Finally, it is time for Thanksgiving dinner, and Cal proudly gives the box to his father, who opens it and does not react as planned. He is silent. Cal quickly explains how he made the money, and Adam grows disgusted. He states that he does not want this money stolen from poor farmers, this profit from a horrible and deadly war. He tells Cal he doesn’t want the money—and returns the certificates. He tells Cal not to be angry.
Adam, like God rejecting Cain’s sacrifice, rejects Cal’s money. Because he is incapable of seeing that evil and good can exist together, he cannot understand that his son could make the money with good intentions and still have teamed up with Will Hamilton.
Themes
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
When Lee sees Cal later he begs him to stop it—Cal looks innocently confused, as if he doesn’t understand Lee, and Lee tells him to remember he has a choice. His father couldn’t help but reject the money, but Cal has a choice in how he reacts. Cal tells Lee he shouldn’t get so worked up.
Lee knows that Cal is contemplating something horrible. He reminds Cal that Adam cannot see that there is good and bad in everything—but Cal knows better, and can make a choice between good and 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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Cal goes out for a walk that night. After a while Aron catches up with him. He tells Cal he is sorry his gift was not well received. Cal tells Aron he has a surprise for him. Aron cheerfully asks what kind of surprise—and Cal leads his unknowing, innocent brother towards the edge of town, where the whorehouses are.
Cal has known all along that Aron would not be able to handle the truth about Catherine—this act is tantamount to killing his brother, and he knows it. Cal has killed his brother as Cain has killed Abel.
Themes
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
The local army recruiting office has a visitor the next morning: a young and beautiful boy, who is clearly not 18 yet. The boy lies about his age, however, and the recruiter cannot turn him away, for able bodied men are so sorely needed in the war.
Aron runs away, as he has always done, to try to avoid ugliness and pain. But he is running away to a terrible and bloody war—the implication is that Aron, like Abel, is doomed.
Themes
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon