Study Guide

East of Eden Chapter 16

By John Steinbeck

Chapter 16


  • Samuel rides back from Adam's place in the dark that night, and as he does he thinks of Weltschmerz, which is a German word for sadness with the world. The narrator keeps referring to it as Welshrats.
  • Samuel tries to pinpoint what exactly it is about Adam's situation that makes him uneasy. Is it jealousy? No—it's Cathy. Definitely.
  • Okay, so Cathy doesn't talk much. That's not so weird, right?
  • But now Samuel thinks of a childhood memory. He was a boy in London with his father, and they accidentally came upon a public hanging. 
  • His father tried to shield him from it, but Samuel remembers seeing the face of the condemned man. His eyes had no depth.
  • Later Samuel and his father were in a pub talking about what had happened. Little Samuel asked his father what the man did and his father refused to answer, but said that it is a good thing that the man is dead.
  • But then, back in the present, Samuel thinks that he must have an overactive imagination. After all, how could there be a connection between a cold-blooded criminal and a mother-to-be?


  • The next morning Samuel fills Liza in on what Adam is doing with the property and the original house. He also mentions a few things about Cathy.
  • Samuel tells Liza about Adam's plans for wells, and how he will need Tom and Joe to help him out; Liza is dead-set against Joe going because he is too delicate.
  • This is bad news, but Samuel knows how to handle this sort of thing. He tells Joe about the plans and Joe wants to help out, but Samuel absolutely refuses to let him come and tells him to take it up with his mother.
  • A few days later and Samuel, Tom, and Joe are headed over to the Trask place.