East of Eden

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Catherine Trask (Kate) Character Analysis

Catherine is born without kindness, empathy, or any goodness at all. She learns to manipulate people at an early age, taking pleasure in the destruction and degradation of other people’s lives. She eventually runs away and becomes the lover of Edwards, a man who runs a whorehouse. She makes him fall in love with her and then drains him of his wealth and dignity and he finally lashes out and tries to kill her. She survives, and crawls to the doorstep of the Trask brothers, Charles and Adam. Adam helps her recuperate, marries her, and moves her to California with him. There, she bears him two sons, and then almost immediately leaves him. She then works her way up in a whorehouse in Salinas, blackmailing, abusing, and manipulating her way into ownership of the establishment. Eventually her lies and crimes catch up with her, as she grows old and feeble. She finally kills herself with morphine, leaving her fortune to her son Aron.

Catherine Trask (Kate) Quotes in East of Eden

The East of Eden quotes below are all either spoken by Catherine Trask (Kate) or refer to Catherine Trask (Kate). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of East of Eden published in 1952.
Chapter 8 Quotes

And just as there are physical monsters, can there not be mental or psychic monsters born? The face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produce a malformed soul?

Related Characters: John Steinbeck (speaker), Catherine Trask (Kate)
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage is a description of Catherine, who will eventually become Adam's wife. She has no regard for others, and she causes harm to people in order to get her way. As this passage suggests, she is an embodiment of the evil extreme of human nature. For Steinbeck, good and evil are innate qualities, and, provocatively, they function best when they are in balance, rather than weighted towards one quality or the other. Kate, who is an example of pure evil, cannot love because she has no empathy for others.

But Adam, too, though he is supposedly an example of pure good, cannot truly love because he is incapable of recognizing others for who they really are. Thus extreme good and extreme evil are seen as almost akin. Steinbeck suggests that real human goodness lies in those who face the complex truth of humanity, who must struggle between good and bad impulses and make choices based on their own personal values and their feelings for others. 

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Chapter 9 Quotes

Catherine was clever, but even a clever woman misses some of the strange corridors of man.

Related Characters: John Steinbeck (speaker), Catherine Trask (Kate)
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage comes in the midst of Catherine's manipulation of Mr. Edwards, the owner of a whorehouse whom Catherine has convinced to love and support her. As Catherine seemingly embodies evil, she moves through the world by reading people (rather than empathizing with them) and exploiting their weaknesses.

Steinbeck presents Mr. Edwards as being a simple and generous man who loves Catherine, but this passage points out that hardly anybody is so straightforward. Mr. Edwards' "strange corridors" come out when Catherine gets drunk and shows him her true cruelty.What had seemed before to be Mr. Edwards' straightforward love convolutes into a vengeful anger that leads him to try to murder Catherine. Steinbeck is here attempting to show that all human beings are complex mixtures of good and evil. He is also showing us the dual edges of love; on the one hand, love can lead to joy and kindness, but, on the other hand, it can produce jealousy and violence. Steinbeck wants us to understand how complicated the human character is; Catherine's downfall is that she misses this.

Chapter 15 Quotes

Then a breeze would move her bright hair, or she would raise her eyes, and Adam would swell out in his stomach with a pressure of ecstasy that was close kin to grief.

Related Characters: John Steinbeck (speaker), Adam Trask, Catherine Trask (Kate)
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage describes Adam's feelings of love when he sees Cathy, who is pregnant with their child. Cathy has already been shown to be an amoral and even evil character She is using Adam's feelings to manipulate him and has even tried to have an illegal abortion without his knowledge. However, Adam's natural inclination towards goodness and non-confrontation does not allow him to see people as they truly are, even his own wife with whom he supposedly shares a life.

This passage shows his delusion, and also the tragedy of this delusion; Adam is vulnerable because of his inability to recognize Cathy's evil, and he is also mistaking something manipulative for love, which denies him one of the most powerful and good human experiences. It's telling that his "love" is described as an ecstasy that borders on grief. Steinbeck suggests that real love should not be only ecstatic, since it must acknowledge flaws and be tempered by complexity. Adam's naive and ecstatic feelings are volatile, and the grief that lurks in his feelings suggests the loneliness that is at the heart of his empty relationship.

Chapter 25 Quotes

“That’s what I hate, the liars, and they’re all liars…I love to rub their noses in their own nastiness.”

Related Characters: Catherine Trask (Kate) (speaker), Adam Trask
Page Number: 322
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Adam has come to see Kate at the brothel, and she is incensed to realize that she no longer has a hold on him. In this passage, Kate has been drinking and, as usual, alcohol is bringing out her cruelty. She is trying to account for her hatred of the world, and she claims here that she is cruel because everyone else is a liar and a hypocrite. She frames her behavior as almost moral in that it "rubs their noses in their own nastiness."

This scene is yet another illustration, though, of the importance of acknowledging human complexity. Kate embodies evil, and, as a result, she sees that same evil everywhere. She projects herself onto the world instead of receiving and interpreting what is actually there. Were she more receptive to others, she would understand that everyone is not fundamentally a liar. While everyone is sometimes prone to telling lies, people struggle between their good and bad impulses and thus cannot be defined by one quality or another. Kate is reducing people to caricatures in much the same way that Steinbeck shows racism and sexism as functioning.

Chapter 38 Quotes

“Of course you may have that in you. Everybody has. But you’ve got the other too.”

Related Characters: Lee (speaker), Catherine Trask (Kate), Caleb “Cal” Trask
Page Number: 449
Explanation and Analysis:

After seeing his mother sinning at the brothel, Cal is deeply shaken by the implications he sees for his own character. He finds Lee and confesses what he has seen, admitting that he worries that he is evil like his mother. In this quote, Lee explains to him that he does have his mother's evil in him, but he also has his father's good--everyone is a mix of both. Lee takes this argument further by scolding Cal for the laziness of assuming that he is innately evil like his mother. Lee sees the ability to blame bad ancestry for bad choices as a scapegoat and a betrayal of the sanctity of choice. "Whatever you do, it will be you who do it—not your mother," Lee says.

This passage shows the liberating potential of seeing identity as not being wrapped up in a person's blood or background, but as comprised of a series of choices made freely. In some sense, this is the least reductive way possible to see another human being. 

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Catherine Trask (Kate) Character Timeline in East of Eden

The timeline below shows where the character Catherine Trask (Kate) appears in East of Eden. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 8
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
...born with monstrous psychological deformities; children in possession of a “malformed soul.” The narrator believes Cathy Ames is one of these monsters. Cathy was born with an innocent face and small,... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
Eventually Cathy grows tired of obeying her parents, and carries out a sadistic plot: she burns her... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Catherine goes to a local whorehouse run by a man named Mr. Edwards. She sells him... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...that Charles call the doctor and carries the woman (who the reader can assume is Catherine) to bed. Adam cares for her passionately, and protects her from the invasive questioning of... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
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As Cathy starts to get better, Charles begins to mistrust her more and more. In a private... (full context)
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...She says she’ll think about it. Five days later, Adam tells Charles that he and Cathy are married. Charles is appalled and says he won’t live in the same house with... (full context)
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When Adam tells Cathy they are leaving, she says she doesn’t want to go, but he doesn’t listen to... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Cathy brings “glory” into the life of Adam Trask. He imagines her as a perfect woman;... (full context)
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Adam, delighted to hear that Catherine is pregnant, becomes interested in a large piece of property for sale along the river.... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Adam and Cathy sit under a tree as the sun sets. Adam describes to her all of his... (full context)
Chapter 16
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...back from the Trask property he tries to understand why he is feeling so uneasy. Cathy’s eyes had reminded him of something—it comes suddenly to him in a flash: as a... (full context)
Chapter 17
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The narrator muses about the nature of Cathy’s monstrosity. He notes it is easy to say that Cathy was bad, but difficult to... (full context)
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Cathy’s pregnancy advances quickly—he grows unusually large in the stomach for a woman her size. She... (full context)
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Sam goes into the bedroom and Cathy looks furious. He manages to get her to tell him how far apart her contractions... (full context)
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Lee tries to clean up Sam’s wound, and they talk about Cathy. Sam says he “feels a dreadfulness coming” and Lee agrees, but both men worry they... (full context)
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...asks her how it went. Liza remarks that, though she can find no fault with Cathy, she dislikes her. Sam notes that Cathy has put a spell on Adam—that he can’t... (full context)
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Cathy rests for a week, until one day Adam enters her room to find her holding... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...won’t tell him anything and who seems mentally disturbed. But eventually the sheriff hears that Catherine Trask has holed up in a whorehouse in Salinas. The sheriff decides not to tell... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...lose some of their young virtue. Faye is puzzled by a new girl—who calls herself Kate—who is not like any woman Faye had come across before. Kate is too pretty to... (full context)
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After Kate has been at the house for about a year, Faye asks her what the sheriff... (full context)
Chapter 20
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One afternoon Faye begs Kate to give up her work—she offers to give Kate a home and a life free... (full context)
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That night Kate tells the girls not to come in to see Faye at all—for Faye is quite... (full context)
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Faye then tells Kate she is going to give her a present now. Faye takes out a sheet of... (full context)
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Kate’s filters and defenses break down. She begins to spit cruel insults at Faye, calling her... (full context)
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Kate begins to sober up and a feeling of dread comes over her. Kate puts Faye... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Kate begins to execute her plans, with characteristic slowness and patience. She spreads around the news... (full context)
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That night at supper Kate fixes Faye a meal of canned string bean salad. She mixes two drops from one... (full context)
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Kate goes in to see Faye, calling her mother, and stroking her check. She then puts... (full context)
Chapter 22
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Adam Trask has drawn into himself; Cathy’s departure has caused a great sickness in his mind. For a while Lee and Sam... (full context)
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...feels like he is waking up from a deep sleep. Sam says Adam has built Cathy up in his mind, but he’s never really seen her for what she is. Sam... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...feels shame for letting his land go to waste. Sam realizes Adam has never let Cathy go. Sam says that the only way to live your life when bad memories creep... (full context)
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...and might kill him. Adam says he wants that medicine, and Sam tells Adam that Cathy is the owner of the most violent and depraved whorehouse in Salinas. Adam is left... (full context)
Chapter 25
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...cemetery early and walks to a bar. He asks the bartender about a place called “Kate’s.” The bartender tells him to not mess with a place like Kate’s, and tells him... (full context)
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Adam arrives at Kate’s in the evening. The woman at the door tells Adam that Kate is not available,... (full context)
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Adam cannot stop smiling. He asks Kate why she has so much hate in her. Kate tells him ever since she was... (full context)
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Kate changes gears and tries to seduce Adam. Adam is not susceptible to her charm anymore.... (full context)
Chapter 26
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Adam should have been sad and bitter after Sam’s death and his conversation with Kate, but instead he feels euphoric. He goes to see Will Hamilton, who has been selling... (full context)
Chapter 30
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...to bed Adam and Lee talk about Charles’s letter. They realize that because Adam and Cathy have never divorced, the way the will is written stipulates that Cathy has a right... (full context)
Chapter 31
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The next day, Adam goes to see Kate about the inheritance. He tells her she is entitled to half of the money, and... (full context)
Chapter 38
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 39
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...that he does not even hate his mother, revealing to Adam that he knows of Catherine’s whereabouts. Adam responds calmly, and asks if Aron knows. Cal swears he will do everything... (full context)
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...such a bright mood that Lee thinks Cal has a girlfriend. Cal takes to following Catherine around town when she runs her errands once a week—he feels the more he knows... (full context)
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When they are settled in Kate’s office, Kate asks Cal what he wants. He says he doesn’t want anything. He tells... (full context)
Chapter 40
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After her meeting with Cal, Kate calms herself by touching a small vial she keeps hanging on a chain around her... (full context)
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For a long time Kate doesn’t think of Ethyl, but slowly the idea that she is out there begins to... (full context)
Chapter 44
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Abra, in a moment of courage, asks Lee if Mrs. Trask is still alive. Lee says yes. Just then Cal enters the kitchen. He is elated,... (full context)
Chapter 45
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Joe Valery, Kate’s henchman, grows more curious about Kate’s obsession with Ethyl. He wonders what information Ethyl has... (full context)
Chapter 48
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Joe Valery continues to collect gossip about Kate, and realizes she is likely a very dangerous woman. In the meantime the girls of... (full context)
Chapter 49
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 50
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Kate’s arthritis is getting worse—her hands are gnarled and there are pains through all of her... (full context)
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Catherine thinks back to her childhood, and to her childhood love for Alice in Wonderland. She... (full context)
Chapter 51
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When Joe Valery comes back to Kate’s office and finds her dead, he searches her desk for valuables. He finds the envelope... (full context)
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Lee finds Cal, and tells him that his mother committed suicide. Lee explains softly that people, especially Americans, who are spectacularly excessive, who throw... (full context)