Study Guide

East of Eden Chapter 18

By John Steinbeck

Chapter 18


  • Horace Quinn, the new deputy sheriff, hears rumors that Adam Trask has been shot, so be decides to pay him a visit. On the way he meets Julius Euskadi and brings him along.
  • Adam looks like death incarnate propped up in bed. When Horace questions Adam about how he got shot, he answers that he was cleaning his gun and it accidentally went off.
  • Horace gets the gun, looks at it, and traps Adam in his own lies. But Adam keeps insisting that it was an accident.
  • Horace starts to lose his ambition to run for sheriff—he doesn't like the feeling of making people afraid of him. He knows that Adam is lying but he can't get him to admit the truth.
  • Then Horace starts asking about Adam's wife. Adam finally has to admit that she went away and he has no clue where she went. He doesn't even know what her name was before they were married, and he can barely describe her aside from the fact that she was beautiful.
  • In the other room, Horace and Julius suspect that Adam killed his wife. Horace deputizes Julius while he goes to get the sheriff.
  • On his way out Julius mentions that the Hamiltons knew Mrs. Trask, and that maybe Horace should go see them as well.


  • Horace gets into King City early that morning. While getting breakfast he runs into Will Hamilton, who encourages him to run for sheriff.
  • Then Horace goes to see the sheriff, whose job, the narrator mentions, is less about armed law enforcement and more about diplomatically keeping the peace.
  • Horace fills the sheriff in on the details about what he suspects; he has a detailed description of Cathy now, thanks to the Hamiltons.
  • The sheriff tells Horace to have a drink—he's about to give him a talk.
  • The sheriff talks about the row of whorehouses in Salinas down by the tracks. As a sheriff, he is on good terms with those houses because it means that he can keep an eye on things—plus, the people want them. Recently a woman named Faye came to the sheriff saying that she wanted to open up a new place.
  • Faye recently came to the deputy because she hired a new girl whom she can't figure out: she seems like she might be a runaway, but she's also a good whore, which makes Fay suspect that she isn't new to the trade. So the sheriff went to have a look at her but could find nothing wrong or suspicious.
  • Basically, the description that Horace has of Cathy matches the girl at the whorehouse.
  • Horace thinks of Adam's weeping face as he and the sheriff go to get some coffee. The sheriff tells Horace to keep his mouth shut about the whole thing.


  • Adam is sitting under a tree with the boys in a basket when Samuel rides up. Samuel tries to shake him out of his stupor, but Adam doesn't care about anything.
  • So Samuel offers some advice instead: He tells Adam to act out being alive, and eventually it will come back to him. Samuel says that he will be back.

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