East of Eden


John Steinbeck

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East of Eden: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Sam Hamilton’s family continues to grow. George is born, then Will, who even as a child showed great talent for business. Tom is the third son; curious and contemplative like his father. Sam buys more land and expands his house as he has more children, but grows no richer. He does grow to be extremely well liked, though, and makes a living from helping his neighbors. He tries to become an inventor, but all of the money from his patents go to greedy lawyers, and his patents lose money. Then Joe is born, the fourth son, who is babied by everyone in the family. In addition to the boys there are five girls: Una, Lizzie, Dessie (a joker), Olive (who is the narrator’s mother) and Mollie, an adorable youngster.
Note that Sam works hard, but doesn’t seem to be motivated by the prospect of wealth, for he continues to work hard, to be creative, to innovate, though he grows no wealthier. The patent lawyers who essentially steal from Sam are portrayed unsympathetically—their greed is unequivocally presented as evil. Though Sam’s fortune does not grow, his family does—he has nine children. This perhaps constitutes a different—and more important—kind of wealth.
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Liza rears her children with expertise and deftness. She inspires a level of awe in everyone around her from the sheer impressiveness of her competence. Liza hates alcohol of all kinds, and Sam has to hide any alcohol he drinks from her or she will scold him horribly. All in all she and Sam have raised a good family—not rich, but not as poor as some. If there had been water they would have been relatively wealthy. But, though there was none, the family is well balanced, intelligent, and successfully settled in the Salinas Valley. Samuel is “pleased with the fruit of his loins.”
The narrator again emphasizes that material wealth isn’t necessary for success, virtue, or happiness. The Hamiltons are unlucky enough to live on a large property with no water—but they are not bitter about their misfortune. Wealth does not prevent them from being friendly, fulfilled, intelligent, and settled in the Salinas Valley. Sam could be angry or unhappy about his lack of material wealth but instead he is “pleased” with his life.
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