Study Guide

East of Eden Chapter 45

By John Steinbeck

Chapter 45


  • Joe Valery—remember the house pimp at Kate's?—has got some issues. He hates everybody and never sticks his neck out.
  • When he first started working for Kate, Joe thought that he could outsmart her. He changed his mind about that really quickly though, and now he's afraid of her.


  • Sometimes the arthritis pain in Kate's hands keeps her awake at night, and she thinks about people from her past: about Mr. Edwards and Faye and, inevitably, Ethel.
  • The thought of Ethel gives Kate a ton of grief—she's pretty worried that she made a mistake by having Ethel sent away.
  • So she starts thinking about where Ethel could have gone. Why not send Joe to go look for her?
  • Kate knows that she can trust Joe: She has a file on a certain Joseph Venuta who walked off a road gang in San Quentin, though Joe doesn't know that she knows.
  • When Joe brings Kate her breakfast in bed, Kate tells Joe that she wants him to go find Ethel, using the excuse that Ethel stole something from her.
  • Then she asks if Ethel said anything out of the ordinary when she was on trial. Joe has a flashback to Ethel saying to the judge that she needed to tell him something.
  • When Kate catches the look on Joe's face, he makes up some story about her relatives in San Luis Obispo.
  • Before Joe starts off, Kate casually asks Joe if the name Venuta means anything to him. Zing.


  • Joe buys a train ticket for Watsonville like he told Kate he would, and then he heads for Monterey.
  • He checks into a hotel and thinks about whether it's worth it to play the game and try to outsmart Kate—he knows that Ethel has some serious dirt on her.
  • The next morning Joe goes to Watsonville and meets up with a friend who sends him to another friend who tells them that poor Ethel is dead.
  • Joe delays going back to Salinas. He still needs to think about whether to tell Kate the truth or not.


  • Kate has had her first good night's sleep in ages and she's feeling (and looking) great.
  • She thinks fondly about her beautiful son in the church (who looks like her), only she can't remember his name.
  • Cal, though, she doesn't like, because he's smart and reminds her of Charles.
  • Next she muses about going to New York and slowly killing Ethel by feeding her a ton of fatty foods.
  • Then Kate realizes that she doesn't want Aron to know about her less-than-virtuous lifestyle. She knows that he wouldn't be able to handle it.
  • Joe comes in with the breakfast. He's really casual about bringing up the whole Ethel business and Kate doesn't seem to mind so much—until Joe tells her that he heard Ethel was coming back to Salinas.
  • This visibly freaks Kate out, and she retreats into her grey windowless room after Joe leaves.