Study Guide

East of Eden Chapter 49

By John Steinbeck

Chapter 49


  • No one can talk Adam out of meeting Aron at the train station. He's positive that Aron will be changed even though it's only been a few months.
  • Abra is already at the train station when the Trasks and Lee arrive. Aron gets off and everybody is peachy.
  • At home, Adam wants to have the whole tell-me-all-about-school parental conversation, but Lee is the only one who gets the hint that Aron wants to be alone with Abra and is exasperated at his father's over-enthusiasm about his life.
  • So Aron walks Abra home. They have a lot to talk about, including the fact that Abra's dad really doesn't like Aron, but they reaffirm that they want to be together.
  • But Abra is a little irked that Aron seems to just be okay with everything.


  • At home getting ready for bed, Aron for the first time feels caged in by his father's ambitions for him.
  • He goes and taps on Cal's door. Cal is wrapping some sort of gift that he puts away quickly when Aron comes in.
  • Aron confesses to Cal that he doesn't want to go back to college. When Cal insists that he should because Adam wants him to, Aron answers that that's not a good enough reason.
  • At that moment Cal knows why Adam loves Aron more.
  • After Aron leaves, Cal looks at the gift he is wrapping. It's fifteen thousand dollars in cold hard cash.
  • Cal imagines what he will say to his father when he gives it to him the next day. He can't sleep, so he goes out for one of his night walks.
  • When he gets back, Lee is stuffing a turkey. Cal thinks about how today is going to be his day, but then Aron comes in and mentions to Lee that there is something that he needs to tell his father at dinner that day.
  • Cal goes to his room and thinks about how jealous he is of Aron. He also knows that Adam loves Aron because he looks like their mother.
  • At the same time, no one would even care if Cal went away.
  • Cal decides to stop wallowing in self-pity, just give the money like it's no big deal, and let Aron have his day.
  • Cal goes down and tells Aron to go for a walk with him. They order some champagne for the dinner, and Cal tells Adam that it's Aron's gift.


  • Cal is super impatient waiting for dinner. He even considers just waiting until the next day, except that he wants the others to see his gift.
  • That afternoon in the living room Adam gives Aron the fatherly lecture about the importance of college and specialization. Lee is really against the latter.
  • Adam is in a really good mood, but he brushes Cal off when he tries to suggest something about the ice plant.
  • Abra comes in and they have dinner. Afterward, Cal reaches into his pocket and slides the wrapped present over to his father.
  • Adam, after hearing how Cal earned the money, looks helpless. He tells Cal that he has to give the money back.
  • Wait, what? Cal can't give the money back.
  • Adam explains that he sends boys out to die in the war, and that he wouldn't be able to take any money derived from it. He doesn't want money, he says.
  • To make matters worse, he does the whole why-didn't-you-do-what-your-brother-did thing. And then he tells him not to be angry.
  • Cal runs from the room and goes into his own room, seething with hatred.
  • Eventually Lee comes in and tells him to stop acting like he doesn't have any choice—Adam was behaving the only way Adam knew how, but Cal can choose how he himself will behave.
  • Later Cal apologizes to his father. Then he asks where Aron is.


  • That night Cal leaves the house and runs into Aron. He tells him to come with him, because he's got a surprise. Then they head toward the street where the brothels are.


  • When Sergeant Dane of the San Jose recruiting office opens up shop at 8:30AM the next day, there is already a boy there waiting to enlist.
  • Dane and the corporal ask the boy if he is eighteen, but they know that he is lying. Beggars can't be choosers though, and they sign him right up.

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