East of Eden

East of Eden

Lee is the son of two Chinese railroad workers and Adam’s servant. Though he was born in California and speaks perfect English, he chooses to speak pidgin-English for most of his young life, because he knows that people would be confused by a Chinese man who sounds American. Lee feels a deep kinship with Sam Hamilton, and the two often spend hours talking about the meaning of the Bible and the nature of the human soul.

Lee Quotes in East of Eden

The East of Eden quotes below are all either spoken by Lee or refer to Lee. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of East of Eden published in 1952.
Chapter 15 Quotes

Pidgin they expect, and pidgin they’ll listen to. But English from me they don’t listen to, and so they don’t understand it…That’s why I’m talking to you. You are one of the rare people who can separate your observation from your preconception. You see what is, where most people see what they expect.”

Related Characters: Lee (speaker), Sam Hamilton
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Chapter 22 Quotes

“We are descended from this. This is our father. Some of our guilt is absorbed in our ancestry. What chance did we have? We are the children of our father. It means we aren’t the first.”

Related Characters: Adam Trask (speaker), Lee, Sam Hamilton
Page Number: 269
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

“A great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last.”

Related Characters: Lee (speaker), Adam Trask, Sam Hamilton
Page Number: 270
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 24 Quotes

“But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’—that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man…why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.”

Related Characters: Lee (speaker), Adam Trask, Sam Hamilton
Page Number: 303
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in repreh

“This is not theology. I have no bent toward gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul.”

Related Characters: Lee (speaker)
Page Number: 304
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 38 Quotes

“Of course you may have that in you. Everybody has. But you’ve got the other too.”

Related Characters: Lee (speaker), Catherine Trask (Kate), Caleb “Cal” Trask
Page Number: 449
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Chapter 53 Quotes

“He’s crammed full to the top with every good thing and every bad thing.”

Related Characters: Lee (speaker), Caleb “Cal” Trask, Abra Bacon
Page Number: 585
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Lee Character Timeline in East of Eden

The timeline below shows where the character Lee appears in East of Eden. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 15
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
...she endures her pregnancy and waits diligently for her opportunity to escape. Adam’s Chinese servant Lee is suspicious of her, but Adam notices nothing. (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
One day Adam sends Lee to the Hamilton house to fetch Sam. Lee obliges and as he and Sam are... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Money, Wealth, and the Value of Work Theme Icon
Sam asks Lee why is he content to be a servant. Lee says a man not only learns... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
...shivers. He quickly finishes his dinner and excuses himself. On his way out he asks Lee if he’s noticed anything “creepy” going on around this house. Lee doesn’t answer him directly,... (full context)
Chapter 17
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...sits quietly watching the flurry of activity around her. One day while Sam is drilling, Lee comes running outside and insists that Sam come inside to help—Cathy has gone into labor... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
...is a boy—Sam swaddles the baby and tells Adam, who looks queasy. Sam asks for Lee, who comes in to help him clean up. Suddenly Sam sees that a second baby... (full context)
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
Lee tries to clean up Sam’s wound, and they talk about Cathy. Sam says he “feels... (full context)
Chapter 22
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
...into himself; Cathy’s departure has caused a great sickness in his mind. For a while Lee and Sam did their best to help him, but eventually gave up, for Adam could... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
Adam, Lee and Sam sit down with dinner and begin to consult the Bible for names. Sam... (full context)
Chapter 24
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
...every detail of the landscape. He saves his visit to the Trask place for last. Lee and Adam ask Sam to stay for dinner and he agrees. Sam looks at Adam’s... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
Over dinner Lee says he dedicated many years to thinking about the story of Cain and Abel. He... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
Lee triumphantly explains that “thou mayest” captures what makes men great—they have the choice to overcome... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Time 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
...the most violent and depraved whorehouse in Salinas. Adam is left reeling and Sam leaves. Lee goes with him; he wants to spend a few more minutes riding with Sam. Lee... (full context)
Chapter 26
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Money, Wealth, and the Value of Work Theme Icon
When Adam returns home Lee notices a change in him. Adam tells Lee he wants to get to know his... (full context)
Chapter 27
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
...day bring her home. Aron is deeply upset by the thought of his father and Lee lying to him, but Cal shows no emotion. (full context)
Chapter 28
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Money, Wealth, and the Value of Work Theme Icon
Lee and Adam discuss the risks of moving to Salinas—the boys would be closer to their... (full context)
Chapter 30
Time Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
A week after the driving lesson, Adam, Lee and the boys are driving the car around, and stop by the post office. There... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
The boys pretend to drive the parked car as Lee prepares dinner. Aron asks Cal why Cal insists on doing sneaky, tricky things. He knows... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Money, Wealth, and the Value of Work Theme Icon
After the boys go to bed Adam and Lee talk about Charles’s letter. They realize that because Adam and Cathy have never divorced, the... (full context)
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
Cal sneaks away from the door of the room where Adam and Lee have been talking—he’s heard the whole thing. He quietly sneaks back to the room he... (full context)
Chapter 35
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Lee helps Adam make the move to Salinas, and afterwards says his goodbyes. As per his... (full context)
Chapter 36
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Aron is disturbed: either his mother is dead, or his father and Lee or liars, which makes them dead in a different kind of way. He cannot stomach... (full context)
Chapter 38
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
Following this incident Cal approaches Lee and boldly tells him he knows where his mother is. Lee answers all of Cal’s... (full context)
Chapter 39
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness 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... (full context)
Chapter 43
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
...graduate a year early. Adam could not be prouder of him. He glowingly boasts to Lee about Aron’s accomplishments. Meanwhile, the minister at the church points out to Aron, who is... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
...from Cal, who is shocked to hear that Aron kept this information from his father. Lee hears about this and threatens to fight Aron if he does not start treating his... (full context)
Chapter 44
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...only thing in his life that has any meaning for him anymore. Abra confides in Lee, with whom she has grown increasingly close, that she feels the letters are written to... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
Abra, in a moment of courage, asks Lee if Mrs. Trask is still alive. Lee says yes. Just then Cal enters the kitchen.... (full context)
Chapter 49
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
At Thanksgiving time, Adam, Lee, Cal, and Abra go to the train station to greet Aron. Adam is anxious to... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
...his business venture with Will Hamilton. But on the day of Thanksgiving, Aron asks for Lee to delay the meal which messes up Cal’s carefully calibrated timeline. Cal succumbs to angry... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
When Lee sees Cal later he begs him to stop it—Cal looks innocently confused, as if he... (full context)
Chapter 51
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
Adam and Lee wait for Aron to come home. When they don’t see him for a while they... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
Lee finds Cal, and tells him that his mother committed suicide. Lee explains softly that people,... (full context)
Chapter 52
Time Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
...has tingling in one of his hands. Cal worries for his father’s health, and asks Lee after a couple of months if they ought to call a doctor. Lee changes the... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
...fact she has not loved him for quite some time. Abra agrees to go visit Lee the next day. (full context)
Chapter 53
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Adam takes to sleeping in short bursts throughout the day and night. Lee sees that Adam’s time is drawing short, and it makes Lee feel, paradoxically, more alive.... (full context)
Chapter 54
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
That afternoon an envelope is delivered to the door. Lee resists the urge to open it, telling himself it is some kind of advertisement. When... (full context)
Chapter 55
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
When Cal and Abra return home, Lee is there to give them some terrible news. Aron is dead, and Adam has had... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
Abra, Lee and Cal sit in the kitchen. Abra begs Lee to help Cal understand. Lee takes... (full context)