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Thursday, December 2, 2010

East of Eden XLIX -- chpt49: MURDER

Reading Questions
Chapter 49.2

  1. As I said for the previous chapter, trouble is brewing.  Though Cal may not recognize it, why is he all the more justified in being nervous because of Aron's disinterest in returning to college?
  2. Why is giving a gift hard, but getting a gift harder?
  3. What triggers Cal's shame after Aron's request to move back dinner--something between Aron taking his day, and the jealousy?
  4. What evidence does Cal have against himself to indicate an enjoyment for this kind of self-inflicted torment?
  5. Is it possible for Cal to give Adam the money and expect nothing--to give it lightly?
  6. Why is Cal letting Aron buy the wine?  While I think he intends one reason, and a beneficent one, there is a darker motivation (think rabbits) present as well.

Chapter 49.3

  1. Why does Cal want--or need--the others to see the giving of his gift?
  2. This seems like stretching a metaphor to breaking point and shooting well beyond the author's potentially verifiable intentions, but let's do it anyway: what might be the allegory of Lee's turkey?
  3. What is deplorable, for Lee or Sam, about one man only possessing only one tiny wedge of the world, but having it entirely?  "...a specialist is only a coward."  If this is what Adam wants for Aron, what is Lee doing, intentionally or not, by this phrase?
  4. Aside from Scrooge and other misers, how is it that nobody wants money?
  5. "I hope he lives to a hundred." // "How do you know he's not a hundred now?"  --  It's almost as if Steinbeck is a prophet anticipating Yoda....
  6. Is Cal wrong to give the gift at this moment?  What is the inherent trouble--and kicking back to Lee's statement above--with gift-giving, especially extravagant gifts?
  7. Why is the gift repellent to Adam, and in a way that Cal couldn't have ever predicted?
  8. One more time: What is Aron's gift to his father?  (And how does this seem to defy even the definition of "gift"?)
  9. Why does Cal try to make the tears come?  Why are tears preferable to Cal?
  10. How is it that Cal has a choice but Adam did not?


  1. 49.2.1. Aron's lack of interest in college sort of seems to poison the well. It puts Adam in the type of mood in which he is even more likely to become angry and not handle the situation well.
    49.2.2. I think the problem is what happens when you don't particularly like the gift, such as in Adam's case. You have to handle disappointment, or even anger, with grace, which he clearly doesn't. And in a way, Aron doesn't handle Adam's gift of love and happiness well either by just shrugging it off.
    49.2.5. No. You can't give $15,000 or whatever it is and expect no reaction. Impossible.
    49.2.6. I'm not sure if even HE thinks that he has noble intentions with the wine. Buying it is filled with spite and a sort of irony. Kind of like when you lose an argument and angrily lash out, "Fine! Do whatever you want!"
    49.3.1. He needs everyone to see and thus prove that his father loves him.
    49.3.2. I'd be interested to hear your interpretation, but I totally can't see this as being planned for purposes of metaphor. I think the real reason the turkey keeps coming up is that Lee knows what's coming and he's trying to use every possible means to divert the conversation from the impending doom.
    49.3.3. He's calling Adam a bit of a coward, but Adam sometimes needs a kick in the pants, so it's fine.
    49.3.6. What he is giving is basically a blood diamond. He has profited on everyone else's misery. To someone who doesn't consider it too deeply, the gift may seem great, but Adam right away makes the connection.
    49.3.8. Aron's gift to Adam is his scholarly ambition. This is ironic because Aron doesn't really have any scholarly ambition. However, Adam has deluded himself once again into thinking that he's getting something good from someone else that he really isn't.
    49.3.10. Adam is so good that he is naive. He doesn't have the evil that Charles and most other humans have.

  2. I can't say I have anything specific in mind regarding the turkey. I agree with you that it was intended as a diversionary tactic by Lee. The event sort of has the smell of a symbol, however, though I think it would be pretty fruitless ultimately to create one for the moment.

    Well done.


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