Study Guide

East of Eden Chapter 22

By John Steinbeck

Chapter 22

1

  • Nobody can do a darn thing about Adam. He lets his place go to waste and he doesn't pay attention to his kids—Lee is the one who takes care of them.
  • Samuel goes out to see Adam a few times, but Liza puts a stop to it because he mopes around afterward.
  • The Hamilton kids are all off on their own now, except for Tom, whom Samuel worries about. Samuel also has to acknowledge that he is getting older when he sprains his back while lifting a bale of hay and has to go to the doctor.
  • In town Samuel runs into his son Will, and also Lee. Over a drink Lee tells him that Adam hasn't shaken out of his stupor, and it's been over a year. To Samuel's horror, he hasn't even named the twins yet.
  • Samuel resolves that he will go over to the Trask place tomorrow and shake Adam out of it.

2

  • Now Samuel has to convince Liza that he needs to go over to the Trask place, and he's worried because if she says no then he'll have to disobey her.
  • He fills Liza in, and she chastises him about minding his own business before telling him that if he doesn't get those boys named then he can't come back to the house. She even tells Samuel that he isn't violent enough to do it.
  • As Samuel is getting ready to leave he asks if he can take the Bible along, because it's like the old-timey version of a baby names book.
  • Liza doesn't want the family Bible out of the house, so she gives him her mother's—but not before castigating him about how he is always trying to understand the Bible instead of just reading it.

3

  • Adam looks even worse than he looked the last time Samuel saw him; he also makes it abundantly clear that he does not want Samuel there.
  • But Samuel is determined to shake Adam out of his rut and make him recognize his sons, though he keeps speaking in metaphors that Adam doesn't understand.
  • Then Samuel starts to get rough. He strangles Adam and punches him, telling him that he should be grateful for his sons.
  • Afterward, Adam is actually grateful that Samuel has shaken him out. He briefly in his mind sees an image of Charles and then Cathy with a gun.
  • Adam asks Samuel if he has heard anything (about Cathy). No, Samuel hasn't. Adam is almost relieved.
  • They hear Lee killing chickens. Later Lee brings out the twins, and the boys are dressed in Chinese garb because they are the only clothes that Lee had for them.
  • Things are awkward at first, because no one really knows where to start. So Samuel suggests that they start at the beginning and Adam talks about his feelings after Cathy left.
  • Samuel asks Adam if Cathy shot him, and Adam says that yes, she did. But he also knows that she didn't have the intention of killing him.
  • He was just an annoyance in her way.
  • Adam can't remember if Cathy was beautiful. Samuel tells him that she was to Adam because he created her in his mind, and Adam muses that he really didn't know anything about Cathy or her past. He worries that the boys will have her blood in them, but Samuel doesn't much believe in that sort of thing.
  • Adam notices for the first time that the twins are not at all alike. One of them, he says, looks like Charles.
  • They talk some more about names, and the danger of attributing qualities to people through names. Samuel talks about his own biblical name, and how he lacks the courage to be great. He worries about his son Tom, though. Greatness is a lonely business.
  • Lee brings the food out and Adam comments that Lee used to speak differently. Good observation, dude.

4

  • After dinner it's time for the naming. Samuel comments on Adam's own name, and the names of the biblical Adam's sons: Cain and Abel.
  • They talk about the meaning of that story, and Samuel gets out the Bible and reads the passage—you know, so that you don't have to go re-read it yourself. Also, we get to see the source of the novel's title.
  • Everyone unanimously agrees that the story of Cain and Abel is a pretty grim one, and that the human race must harbor a lot of guilt for making it the story of their ancestry.
  • The discussion turns to why God didn't like Cain's gift. Maybe God just didn't like carrots, suggests Adam, but that hurt Cain's feelings enough to make Cain strike out.
  • Lee's analysis is a little better: he suggests that the greatest terror of any child is the fear that they are not loved.
  • Okay the discussion is great and all, but it's getting dark and so it's time to name some babies. They settle on Caleb and Aron.
  • Now that the work is done, Samuel gets ready to leave. Adam remarks that he doesn't think he'll ever work his land because he has no one to show it to, and Samuel tearfully responds from his own experience that that feeling will never go away.