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Saturday, October 16, 2010

East of Eden XIII -- Adam is Taken with a Devil

Chapter 11.1

So Charles and Adam start a new day with, basically, a throw-away conversation--one they've had before, over and over--to which, clearly, Steinbeck does not want to draw too much attention.  There's a sound on the front porch (the house must not be too far from the road; so the rest of the farm must stretch on and on behind it and too the sides, unlike the farms I'm mostly familiar with in Ohio and Michigan, where the house seems to generally sit right in the middle of the property). 

The sound isn't a cat, of course, as they think initially, it's a severely damaged woman, bloody and trashed from head to toe.  Cathy, or Catherine, or whatever her name is.  Interestingly, of the two men it's the Cain figure who makes the first prophecy, followed quickly and unwittingly by the Abel figure, as the latter initiates the rescue:

Charles: "I think you're making a mistake.  I'll go [fetch the doctor], but I tell you we'll suffer for it."
Adam: "I'll do the suffering.  You go."


Notice Adam's immediate empathy for this girl.  Remember, also, his evident desire to get married.  It's not difficult to see how these emotions will likely combine; unfortunately, he can't see that this, in this case, can only result in his detriment. 
Chapter 11.2
  1. Would you care for the girl?  And why is Adam so stubborn about it?  He invests himself so thoroughly that he doesn't see the difference between being a good Samaritan and walking into more potential problems than he could ever escape!  Sure he doesn't know who she is--who she really is--but that doesn't matter.  Would you do what he's planning to do?
  2. What is the calculation behind the feigned amnesia?
  3. Charles is still adamantly against the girl, and not just her presence in his house, but her, fundamentally.  Is there something in his nature that predisposes him to this attitude, or is this a real premonition (I don't see any other possibility); then Adam: is he predisposed to his behavior--is this something well within his nature?
  4. At the end of the section, what is it about Charles that she recognizes?  (This answer is directly connected to Charles's observation that she will end up with a scar just like his.)
Chapter 11.3
  1. I first read East of Eden while living in my realtor's basement.  My wife and son were back in Utah after the house hunt upon our initial arrival in Michigan.  I was reading it during my first week as a new teacher at SASA.  Since that first read and subsequent three or four times through the book, I've wondered about this conversation between Charles and Cathy in 11.3.  HOW DOES HE KNOW SHE'S A DEVIL?  We know he's right.  We've watched her grow up.  How does he know?  (The beginning of 11.4 seems to indicate that there is possibly some non-verbal communication shared between devils--some invisible tattoo or portent (think monster!).)
  2. Is Charles capable of lying?  He believes Adam is not.  Is Charles?  Did Cathy speak out in her drugged sleep?
Chapter 11.4
  1. Based on the previous evidence from Cathy's beating at the hands of her father all those years ago, when tears well up in her eyes now before Adam, are they genuine?  Or has she learned to craft those, too?
  2. (And she lies about EVERYTHING!)
  3. Despite her lies, she seems surprisingly soft and sincere here.  How deep does the lie go?  Is there any sincerity at all?
  4. After her in-the-mirror declaration of agreement to Adam's proposal, Cathy: "She smiled herself when she thought what Charles would say.  She felt a kinship to Charles.  She didn't mind his suspicion of her."
Chapter 11.5

  1. Would Cathy have claimed the money if she saw it advertised?
Chapter 11.6

  1. Not that he should have known exactly who she is, but why is he doing it?  Why does he marry her?  There's so much more here than the absence of what we customarily think there should be in a marriage, or the events leading up to it.  This is evident in Adam's absolutely ridiculous accusation to Charles: "I think you're jealous, Charles.  I think you wanted to marry her."
  2. Poor, stupid, Adam.


  1. 11.2: 1) Adam is a “good” person. When he was in the army, he didn’t want to kill anyone, even if they were the enemy. He would rather help people and he wants to see the good in people, and so that’s what he sees. He looks at Cathy and sees a scared, helpless, severely hurt, lonely girl. He sees her blue eyes and blonde hair and he wants to save her. Now, would I help the girl? Yes, I would, especially of I didn’t know that she was a “monster”. I’d have to say that I’d have a hard time believing that Cathy was a monster if I were Adam as well. People judge by looks and think, “Oh, but she’s so small and pretty. She can’t possibly have burned her parents’ house to the ground with them in it. It must have been an accident. Yes, it was an accident. That’s all.” It’s hard for people that don’t have those monstrous impulses or tendencies or drives or what-have-you don’t understand how someone else could. That’s why Charles is so wary of Cathy. He sees in her the same monstrosity that is in himself. But Adam doesn’t.
    Even I find myself feeling for Cathy on some level even though she is capable of such horrible things without batting an eyelash. I don’t know what it is. I have a feeling that I would have fallen for her trap just as Adam did if I had been in his place.

    11.2: 2) Cathy figures that if she feigns amnesia and “forgets” her name then no one will be able to figure out that she killed her parents. Also, how can you kick a girl (or anyone for that matter) out when they don’t know who they are?

    11.2: 3) I don’t think it’s a premonition, exactly. Charles sees in Cathy the violence and cold calculation that he himself possesses. Adam, on the other hand, doesn’t possess Charles’ violence or calculation, and therefore has a hard time seeing it in other people, especially when they are trying to hide it.

    11.2: 4) See answers 1 and 3.

  2. Karli -- Interesting that I know people who would only give the smallest modicum of help before carting her off to be another's--the government's most likely--problem. I'm not one of them, and that very open trust has actually led to problems for me. Isn't it prudent to be in contact with a stranger, no matter how damaged and/or lovely for as little time as possible? When it comes down to it, I'm with you and, like I said, would help. I just need to be more carefull....

    Secondly, regarding the issue of premonition, how could it be anything less than premonition? There is no visual evidence that she is dangerous. THe only way I see that he could yet make the correct assumption, which, obviously he does, is that as a similar creature he's able to sense something the rest of us more inoccent people don't.

  3. I don't think it's premonition either. There is a part where Steinbeck mentions that they look into their eyes. Remember that whenever Charles gets really angry, a glazed look comes over his eyes. I think he sees this look in Cathy's eyes, as well. It's certainly almost a supernatural connection, but I don't think it's quite premonition.

    Also, I tend to see myself more as an Adam character than a Charles. Most of the time the Adams of the world are really good people. The problem is their failure to see Cathys. I am the most gullible person that I know (other than maybe my dad), and I particularly have a tendency to do this when I am confronted with someone who is helpless that I can care for. What Steinbeck is saying is that this instinctive compassion can really be a bad trait because it fails to recognize that there is evil in the world that will use it to its advantage.

  4. I too am definitely an Adam by nature. Not that I'm all that good, but trusting. I'll concede to both of you the issue of premonition. I agree. It's the eyes. This is the foundation of Samuel's own interpretation of the woman.


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