Meanwhile, Kate's pure evil—her fears, lies and plots are debilitating her, physically and emotionally. Her horribly twisted, arthritic hands are a remarkable symbol of her "malformed soul"—and they are crippling her more and more. She hires Joe Valery, an ex-con who is every bit as hateful and manipulative as she is, as her hatchet man. They scheme, maneuver and lie to one another, and their pure evil will lead Kate toward her final undoing.
However, it is Aron's face—"hurt, bewildered, despairing"—that pushes Kate over the edge. "She saw the face of the blond and beautiful boy, his eyes mad with shock. She heard his ugly words aimed not so much at her as at himself." (p. 545) Recognizing her own absolute evil in the face of Aron's "untouched and untouchable" beauty, Kate becomes a "sick ghost, crooked and in some way horrible," who has no way out. (p. 550) She signs a will leaving everything she has to Aron, drinks morphine...and "disappears."
Who will survive? What will they have learned? How will they go forward? What lives will they create for themselves? There's only one more week of reading in which to find those answers!
New! When Fact Meets Fiction
It's true: Although she was scared of flying, Steinbeck's mother Olive did ride on a biplane once. In East of Eden, Steinbeck fondly relays his memory of her misunderstood heroics aboard the little plane. But to what extent did he embellish or hold back when telling other Hamilton family stories?
Read Professor Susan Shillinglaw's new article.
This week you asked our literary guide Margo Jefferson: Are Lee and Abra spiritually father and daughter, or do they represent mother and daughter instead? In which character's voice did Steinbeck put his personal views of war and violence? And why does Kate give Aron her entire estate?
Get the answers the these questions and more!