East of Eden


John Steinbeck

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East of Eden: Chapter 32 Summary & Analysis

Dessie, like all of the Hamiltons, is capable of great versatility except when it comes to love. Though Dessie tries to remain unchanged after her sordid love affair, everyone can see that the light has gone out of her eyes, and her company begins to make people sad. Will comes to see Dessie after his conversation with Adam, and asks her not to move to the ranch—he thinks it is too lonely there, and he can’t stand the thought of her being alone with the strange and brooding Tom. Dessie laughs and comforts him. “Let me decide” she tells him softly. “I’ve lost something. I want to try to find it again.”
Will even goes so far as to beg Dessie not to go live with Tom. But Will cannot understand what Dessie is going through because he has never experienced loss like she and Tom have. He had no lost love, and the death of his father did not upset him very deeply. He is a businessman—his passion is for business, not for people. And though he clearly cares about his sister, they cannot understand each other.
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When Dessie moves back to the ranch, Tom meets her at the train station; he is clearly elated to see her and anxious that everything be perfect for her return to the ranch. As they drive up the road, Dessie notices a small card stuck in a bush. Tom pulls over to it and lets her pluck it out: it says welcome home. Tom coyly denies putting it there and Dessie laughs. There are similar cards all up the pathway. When they round the crest of the hill Dessie looks out over the landscape with delight: whitewashed stones are arranged on the opposing hill to spell out, in huge letters, “Welcome home, Dessie.” She laughs and cries and the same time, and holds Tom close.
Dessie’s homecoming, with Tom’s thoughtful decorations, is one of the most moving moments in the novel. Dessie and Tom, who have struggled against the weight and pain of loneliness and loss, take refuge in each other’s humor, affection, and generosity. Their relationship is a testament to the strength and power of family and companionship.
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Dessie has been bothered by stomach pains for quite some time, but hides them from Tom. He has cleaned the house immaculately for her, and the two of them begin to recover emotionally in each others’ company. They make plans to see Europe; they will save money for one year, and then they will set out on a great adventure together.
Time has taken its toll on Dessie and she has become ill, but hides her pain from Tom so that the two of them can feel comfortable making plans for the future. Believing she has more time left gives her energy, and hiding her illness protects Tom from more pain.
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