"I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents," the narrator tells us. Cathy is one, among the greatest villains in all of American literature. Lacking even the slightest conscience and manipulative of weaknesses in others, she is a consummate liar. Cathy is capable of seeing only the bad in others. Feigning innocence, she makes "a painful and bewildering stir in her world." As a child in a small town in Massachusetts, she "learned when she was very young that sexuality with all its attendant yearnings and pains, jealousies and taboos, is the most disturbing impulse humans have." At age ten, she is discovered, by her mother, with her hands tied and naked to the waist in a barn with two fourteen-year-old boys. At fourteen, she so seduces her Latin teacher that he blows the top of his head off with a shotgun. At sixteen, she becomes cold to her parents and declares that she will no longer be going to school. She kills them in a craftily staged fire in which robbery is suspected. The townspeople frantically search for her missing body. She runs away, becomes a whore, marries Adam Trask, has sex with his half-brother, tries to abort her twins, shoots her husband and abandons her children, before ending up as the madam of a house of prostitution in the Salinas Valley.


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