Study Guide

East of Eden Chapter 33

By John Steinbeck

Chapter 33


  • Dessie keeps her pain a secret from Tom. After awkwardly asking about Tom's romantic life, Dessie suggests that they go a-travellin'.
  • They make some big plans about working for a year by raising shoats, and even come up with a scheme to hold an acorn-gathering contest for shoat food.


  • Tom goes to see Will about borrowing some money for the plan. He comes back to the ranch despondent about Will's lack of enthusiasm, though he doesn't realize that Will is actually considering it.
  • But when Tom gets back Dessie is lying on the sofa in pain. She tells Tom that it's just a tummy ache, so he fixes her up some salts that she drinks obediently.
  • But the salts just make things a whole lot worse. Dessie goes to bed, and Tom sits up with her until she falls asleep, only to be woken up later by her screams.
  • Tom books it to the nearest house with a phone and calls Dr. Tilson. Dr. Tilson curses Tom when he hears that he gave Dessie salts.
  • At his house, Dr. Tilson tells his wife to call Will Hamilton and tell him that his sister is dying.


  • Fast-forward to a week after Dessie's funeral. Tom rides back to the ranch, holding himself in a dignified way. When he gets home, he turns the horse loose on the land.
  • Poor Tom is harboring a lot of guilt, and he basically puts himself on trial for all of his general sins.
  • Tom is intent on committing suicide, but he knows that his mother would disapprove of it on religious grounds. He thinks about Samuel, and then writes a letter to his mother about how he just bought a new horse that is really frisky and mean.
  • Then he writes another letter to Will that says to tell their mother that he was thrown and kicked by a horse.
  • Tom polishes his gun, loads it, and then drops off the letters at the post office in King City before turning back home to the ranch.