East of Eden

East of Eden

East of Eden Chapter 39 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
One night Cal is caught gambling and put in jail overnight. His father comes to pick him up in the morning. Instead of getting angry, Adam seems apologetic. He tells Cal they should get to know each other better; Adam resolves to be a better father. Cal hesitatingly opens up to Adam. He talks about Aron’s relationship with Abra; he tells his father that he loves his brother; but that he feels Aron needs to be protected from the evils of the world. Cal tells him Aron is thinking of going to college, and Cal says he wants to help pay for it. Adam is pleased—he tells Cal he thought he hated Aron. Cal says he used to have hatred for many people, but now he cannot hate. He lets it slip 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 in his power to keep this information from Aron. Adam tells Cal he trusts him.
Cal and his father finally get to know each other—Adam makes a concerted effort to learn about Cal. Adam is, notably, most pleased by Cal’s love for and commitment to protecting his brother Aron. Adam and Aron are kindred spirits; Cal is different, and not so well understood by Adam. But by serving Aron, Cal feels he is serving Adam, and he wants his father’s acceptance more than anything else. By swearing to his father that Cal will protect Aron from the truth about Catherine, Cal agrees to become “his brother’s keeper”—once again the parallel to the biblical story strengthens, and as it does, the tension in the story grows.
Themes
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
This affection and acceptance from his father puts Cal in 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 about his enemy the safer he is. One day Kate turns around and demands to know why Cal has been following her. Cal can think of nothing to tell her but the truth. She is shocked for a moment, but then asks him to come back to her house.
Cal uses fatherly love to replace romantic love to an extent. This underscores how deeply important Cal’s father’s acceptance is to Cal. Cal devotes himself to the protection of his brother, which means he must “know his enemy.” This is a metaphorical way of saying that Cal must know evil in order to fight it.
Themes
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
When they are settled in Kate’s office, Kate asks Cal what he wants. He says he doesn’t want anything. He tells her that Aron, his brother, looks like her. He asks her why she shot his father—she simply explains that she needed to leave and he was in her way. Cal cautiously asks her if as a child she remembers feeling different. The question causes her to close off to him, and this prompts a great relief in Cal. He tells her he’d been afraid that her evil was in him. But now he knows he is his own person. She yells at him to get out. Cal can see she is afraid and tells her he is glad she is afraid.
Finally reunited with his mother, Cal comes to several important realizations about the nature of good and evil and himself. Cal sees that there is something familiar in his mother, but he also sees that he is “his own person”—he realizes his identity and his choices are not defined by his heritage or his past. Catherine is scared because she sees good in Cal, and she is frightened by what she can’t understand.
Themes
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon