East of Eden


John Steinbeck

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East of Eden: Chapter 50 Summary & Analysis

Kate’s arthritis is getting worse—her hands are gnarled and there are pains through all of her joints. Joe Valery, seeing her weakness, decides to lay his cards on the table. He says he’s heard a rumor that Ethyl is around telling stories about some woman named Faye. But Kate sees through him. She sends him away, and after he leaves she writes and mails a note to the sheriff telling him to check on Joe’s fingerprints (she has known about Joe’s criminal history all along).
Time has taken its toll on Kate—her arthritis serves to catalogue the effects on time on her fragile body. Joe thinks that he’s bested Kate, but Kate has enough sense and strength left in her to punish Joe for trying to fool her. Nevertheless, Kate’s weaknesses have been spotted, and we get the sense that there is not much more she can do to save herself.
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
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Catherine thinks back to her childhood, and to her childhood love for Alice in Wonderland. She thinks of Alice as she writes out her will, in which she leaves everything to her son, Aron Trask. She thinks of Alice as she swallows the contents of her little vial. She imagines she is Alice as slowly she is swallowed up into death.
Catherine takes refuge in a story as she commits suicide. Her final act is ultimately a cruel one—she leaves her fortune to Aron so that he must find out about her death. Aron has already been destroyed by Cal, however, and so (though she doesn’t know it) her actions will have no effect.
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
Money, Wealth, and the Value of Work Theme Icon