East of Eden


John Steinbeck

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East of Eden: Chapter 31 Summary & Analysis

The next day, Adam goes to see Kate about the inheritance. He tells her she is entitled to half of the money, and insists that he has no objective other than to inform her. She is suspicious of him, and pokes and prods him in various ways to try to discover his objective. But he has none—he is simply doing what he believes is fair. Even Adam is surprised and impressed with his total lack of emotion. Adam tells Kate she doesn’t believe he could be fair to her because she doesn’t understand fairness. And she doesn’t believe he loved her because she can’t understand love. He tells her she is only part of a human, and she cannot understand in other what she does not recognize in herself.
As Lee Predicted, Adam’s sense of fairness does not allow him to keep Kate’s share of Charles inheritance. Kate is completely incapable of understanding this impulse, for she was literally born without a sense of fairness, debt, or duty. She cannot even understand love—she perceives it as a weakness and a nuisance and nothing more. Once again we are told Catherine is only part human—she cannot understand human benevolence because she has none of it within her.
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On his way back from the house, Adam stops at the Steinbeck’s house. Little Mary and John peek out through the door at him—the reader now knows that the occasional first person narrator in this novel is that little boy John, whose full name is John Steinbeck. Adam introduces himself to Olive, explaining that Sam and Liza helped him deliver his sons. He simply wants to offer his condolences to Liza, who is staying with Olive at the moment. When Liza hears that Adam is thinking of moving to Salinas, she tells him to go see Dessie, who is thinking of selling her house and moving to the ranch to be with Tom. Adam agrees.
This passage is most notable because it includes the narrator’s full name: John Steinbeck. Note that this passage is not told in first person—little John is referred to in a third-person omniscient voice. Once again, the author’s decision to draw attention to the name of the narrator “John Steinbeck” has the effect of reminding the reader that he or she is holding a book written by John Steinbeck—we are reminded of the fact that we are reading a story.
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Adam goes straight from the Steinbeck’s house to Dessie’s house. He goes to a little place across the street from Dessie’s to eat dinner, and runs into Will. Adam explains to Will that Dessie may be selling her house to him and moving in with Tom—At this news Will becomes angry and says he doesn’t trust Tom. He believes Tom has been acting crazy ever since Sam’s death. His defiance only lasts a moment though, and he doesn’t speak of it any more.
Tom needs Dessie’s company because he has been so lonely after the death of his father. Will doesn’t like this, not seeming capable of understanding sadness and loneliness the same way that Tom, Sam, and Dessie do. Will’s character is much like Liza’s—ruthlessly practical, and often judgmental.
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