Study Guide

East of Eden Chapter 24

By John Steinbeck

Chapter 24

1

  • Samuel and Liza approach death differently. Liza doesn't think about it and merely accepts it. Samuel, on the other hand, philosophizes about it without really believing in it.
  • Before he leaves the ranch, Samuel calls on all of his neighbors, saving the Trask place until the very end.
  • The boys are now eleven years old. Lee tells Samuel about how different they are as they walk up to the house—Cal is darker and his brother is more likeable.
  • Samuel comments to Adam about what a shame it is that he leaves the land fallow.
  • Adam suddenly asks Samuel if he has heard a rumor that Cathy is in Salinas. He still hasn't let her go, and Samuel knows the feeling well.
  • Samuel's advice to Adam is to find a new Cathy and start over, but Adam is too afraid to try.
  • Samuel also tells Adam the real reason why he is visiting: he knows that his life is over.
  • Adam asks Samuel if he will help him make his land into the garden that they originally talked about, and Samuel tells Adam to go see his son Tom.

2

  • At dinner, Samuel meets the two boys. Aron raises hares, and Cal likes to garden. Uh-oh.
  • After dinner Lee tells Samuel and Adam a story. Ten years ago, after Samuel read the story of Cain and Abel at the naming of the twins, Lee got very interested in studying the story. So he got to comparing translations, and found a difference between what God says to Cain after rejecting his gift: in the King James version he says "thou shalt rule over him," and in the American Standard it reads "Do thou rule over him." The first translation implies a promise, while the second one implies an order.
  • So Lee went to his family association in San Francisco and consulted some wise old scholars. They decided that the best way to approach the issue was to learn Hebrew, obviously.
  • And what did they find? Thou mayest. That's how they translated the original Hebrew word, timshel. And what's so special about though mayest? It implies a choice. And that, says Lee, is really cool.

3

  • Lee, Adam, and Samuel walk out to the stable together. Adam asks Samuel when he'll be back from his trip, awkwardly not getting the hint that Samuel won't be returning.
  • They talk about Samuel's old horse, Doxology. Doxology has just about everything wrong with him, and always has, but Samuel loves him.
  • Adam, however, doesn't understand why Samuel doesn't just put him out of his misery.
  • So because Adam hates his life so darn much, Samuel brings out the big guns and tells Adam that Cathy owns a whorehouse in Salinas. It's a really dark and perverse whorehouse too.
  • Adam bolts back to the house.
  • Samuel and Lee ride out together for a little bit. Lee also knew about Cathy, and they wonder whether it would be better to tell the two boys about their mother, because it seems inevitable that they will find out eventually.
  • Lee acknowledges that Samuel is nearing the end of his life. Samuel wishes that Lee had told him about his translation of timshel earlier, because now it's like a new melody—it gives him a new optimism.
  • And so Lee and Samuel part, presumably for the last time.