Study Guide

East of Eden Chapter 20

By John Steinbeck

Chapter 20


  • One morning the blind piano player at Faye's place, Cotton Eye, calls in sick for work. He's doing this a lot these days, and Kate comments that he has been smoking (opium). Good old Kate is always looking out so that people don't take advantage of Faye.
  • Faye finally lets it slip that she thinks of Kate as her daughter and doesn't want her working as a whore; Kate resists and plays up her devotion by calling Faye Mother.
  • Faye in turn tells Kate that after she closes up that night that she should come by her room because she'll have a surprise for her.


  • It's a slow night at Faye's. Kate is quiet too, and the other girls notice it. They want to close up early but Kate tells them to leave Faye alone. She's not feeling well, she says, and then tells them that Faye fainted dead away that afternoon while they were having tea.
  • After she closes up, Kate goes upstairs and makes herself up like a young girl. Then she goes to Faye's room.
  • Faye has decorated the room like it's somebody's birthday party. Kate gives Faye a gift—a pocket watch engraved with "To C. with all my heart from A." Kate tells her that it was her mother's. Shady much?
  • Kate and Faye play up the whole mother-daughter thing and drink some wine. Now it's Faye's turn to give a present. She gives Kate a box with a rolled piece of paper inside tied with a red ribbon. It's Faye's will, and she has left everything to Kate.
  • Kate tells Faye that she is overwhelmed and grateful, and she also asks if Faye has any relatives that would object. Faye tells Kate not to worry, to cheer up and enjoy the party.
  • Now the wine starts pouring, and Faye insists that Kate partake. Kate is uneasy about this, remembering the last time, but there is no way out of it.
  • Faye talks about going to Europe, but Kate has other plans. She starts saying cruel things to Faye, and tells her that her regular customers give her more than the expected dollar: they give her ten dollars, and she does brutal things to them.
  • Faye starts to weep and scream at this revelation about Kate, and she says that she wants Kate out of the house. Instead Kate goes to the bureau for some paregoric (which has opium in it) and makes Faye drink it. Faye falls asleep in her chair.


  • Now Kate starts to panic. She goes to the kitchen and drinks some dry mustard with water to make her vomit up the alcohol.
  • Now sober, Kate returns to Faye's room, undresses her, and puts her to bed. Then she goes to the medicine cabinet to get some ammonia.
  • She pours some on a handkerchief and holds it to Faye's face.
  • Faye comes out of her sleep and Kate soothes her, telling her that she has had a nightmare. Faye falls back asleep.
  • Next Kate goes to the kitchen and gets some water. When she comes back she holds the ammonia handkerchief back over Faye's face and brings her to almost-waking before taking it away. She does it a few times. Then she takes a crochet hook and presses it against Faye's breast until she whines in her sleep. She does this to all of the sensitive parts of Faye's body.
  • Kate soothes Faye in her sleep, telling her that she is having a bad dream. Then she goes to her own room and puts on her sleeping clothes.
  • Finally, Kate goes back into Faye's room and pours cold water in Faye's ear. Faye wakes up screaming, rousing the girls and the cook.
  • Kate insists on taking care of Faye, who refuses to talk about her nightmares; eventually Faye falls back asleep with Kate studying her.

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