Study Guide

East of Eden Chapter 13

By John Steinbeck

Chapter 13


  • The narrator talks about this glory that lights up the mind—it's a kind of creativeness that links us to the rest of the world.
  • But the narrator says that lately things have been worrying him. It seems that there is this idea of the group, or the mass, which is great and all but also dangerous.
  • What does the narrator believe in? He believes in creativity. And creativity is the work of the individual.
  • Now though, it seems like there are forces at work that use the group to declare war on individuality. Not good, says the narrator. 
  • Individuality is the best, and he is willing to fight for it.


  • Adam has come out of the greyness thanks to the glory that is Cathy… never mind that she is a monster.
  • Adam is so happy to be with Cathy and psyched to take her to California that he doesn't even listen to the fact that she doesn't want to go. In his mind, Cathy is his vision of perfect.
  • Adam sells his half of the farm to Charles for less than it is worth. When he leaves, Charles goes to the inn, gets drunk, and spends all night crying in the arms of a prostitute. Then he goes back to working on his farm without any joy.
  • The railroads have a lot of propaganda circulating in an effort to entice people to move out west. Adam is one of these attractable people, and he chooses the Salinas Valley.
  • Adam doesn't want to rush into buying any old piece of land, so he drives around inspecting soil.
  • But Cathy doesn't seem to be doing so well. One night Adam leaves her at the hotel room because she is feeling ill, and when he returns she is near dead from blood loss.
  • The doctor tells Adam to wait downstairs. He is furious at Cathy because she has just tried to give herself an abortion.
  • He finds the knitting needle she used on herself. The abortion didn't work, he tells her, and Cathy just eyes him coldly and doesn't speak.
  • The doctor also says that if she loses the baby and he suspects foul play, then he will have her criminally charged (abortion was illegal in those days).
  • Cathy's anger seemingly disappears and she tells the doctor a sob story about how she did it because epilepsy runs in her family. The doctor believes her.
  • On the way downstairs the doctor breaks the news to Adam that Cathy is pregnant.
  • In his hunt for the perfect piece of land Adam starts setting his sights on the Bordoni ranch between San Lucas and King City. It is what's left of a huge Spanish land grant, and it's the best part of it. The original adobe house is still there too, though now it's just a dilapidated barn.
  • Even though Adam is super thorough in his appraisal of the land, the owner knows that Adam is going to buy it before even Adam does.
  • Adam keeps asking Cathy if she likes the place, but he doesn't actually listen to her answers. In his mind she loves it.
  • One night while hanging out in the hotel lobby, Adam says that he is worried about water and wells. Someone mentions that he should go see Sam Hamilton.


  • A local named Louis Lippo takes Adam over to the Hamilton place. Adam comments on how desolate the Hamilton piece of land is, and Louis explains that it's the land that no one wanted because the Hamiltons couldn't afford anything else. It makes Adam feel bad that he doesn't have to live on land like that.
  • Before getting to the house, Louis turns to Adam and tells him that peoples's first impression of Samuel might be that he is full of ridiculous ideas, but that really he is a good man and a hard worker. Basically, he tells Adam that just because he came from back east and has a lot of money doesn't mean that he's better than the Hamiltons.
  • They get up to the barn and Adam meets Sam. The men go into the shop to drink whiskey out of Liza's sight.
  • Samuel tells them a story about how his son Tom recently invited two sisters to a school dance but, finding that his three brothers took all the other means of transportation, he had the brilliant idea to chain the family sofa to the hay rake. Cool story, bro.
  • But then they get down to business and talk about the Bordoni place and water.
  • Samuel goes into a description of what the land is like deep down, and what it will be someday. He knows all about the geology of the land, and has an idea about blowing through the clay layer with dynamite.
  • But for all his hopeful talk of progress, Samuel also mentions a blackness on the valley, like some kind of violence—he doesn't know what it is, but he feels it.
  • Adam says that he needs to go back home to his pregnant wife.
  • The next day he buys the Bordoni place.