Study Guide

East of Eden Chapter 19

By John Steinbeck

Chapter 19

1

  • The church and the whorehouse arrived in the Far West at the same time, says the narrator. Both are different faces of the same thing: entertainment. In fact, the churches were usually a lot more raucous than the brothels.
  • In Salinas, the brothels are past the railroad tracks. Sometimes a group of rich and powerful men will pull up and the driver will go around the corner to wait.
  • Then there are the Salinas madams. Jenny runs the fun, happy whorehouse, and the N***** runs the one where you go if you want to cry in somebody's arms.
  • Faye doesn't pose any competition to the first two madams because she caters to a different crowd. She is big and maternal, and her house is for boys still in puberty and husbands with frigid wives. The girls at her house aren't allowed to swear or say lewd things, and she has them checked regularly for diseases. In short, Faye runs a good business and is an upstanding citizen.

2

  • Faye is puzzled by the new girl Kate because she seems like she could do a lot better than be a whore. Kate tries to pull the pity-story wool over Faye's eyes but Faye still goes to the sheriff to have her checked out.
  • Soon Kate has a slew of regular customers. Not only that, but she gets along with all the other girls in the house. And not only that, but she even starts helping Faye out with managing the house. Kate basically becomes a second boss.
  • Faye starts to think of Kate as her daughter, which means she starts to dislike the idea of Kate being a whore. She wonders how she should broach the subject with her.
  • So she asks Kate about that time when the sheriff came to question her. Kate says that he just told her to go home and was understanding when she said that she couldn't. Kate reassures her that she didn't tell him anything about her past that Faye doesn't know about.
  • But Kate remembers the interview.

3

  • When the sheriff spoke to her, he was unemotional and inspecting, and that made her like him.
  • The sheriff tells Kate that he knows her husband and asks if she wants to know how badly she shot him. She says yes and he tells her that Adam is going to get better.
  • Kate apologizes, but the sheriff tells her that he knows she's not sorry. 
  • The sheriff also tells her that he knows all about her two sons. 
  • But instead of just running her to the next county, he wants her to keep her new name and her made-up story. He also tells her to dye her hair black so that people won't recognize her. Basically, the sheriff doesn't want her hurting Adam or the two boys.
  • As he gets up to leave, the sheriff tells Kate that he doesn't want his son going to Faye's house. He tells her to send him to Jenny's.

4

  • Back in the present, Faye is eating candy and talking to Kate about her hair color.
  • While Kate is getting some tea, Faye bites down on a walnut that hits the nerve of a hollow tooth. When Kate comes back Faye is clawing at her mouth.
  • Kate gets a nut pick and digs it out of Faye's tooth, then she helps Faye pack the tooth and gives her some Pinkham vegetable compound.

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