Why does Cathy/Kate Change Her Name? The novel keeps circling back to Cathy. The narrator John Steinbeck reexamines her meaning, literally rereading the text of Cathy in Chapters 8, 13, 17. "When I said Cathy was a monster it seemed to me that it was so," he begins Chapter 17. "Now I have bent close with a glass over the small print of her and reread the footnotes, and I wonder if it was true." What is at stake here is the narrator's own creative freedom, as Steinbeck the artist, to leave the marks of his creative process in the book. He reminds the reader, with his presence in the novel, that he is the artist, the shaper, the namer. He reassesses Cathy so insistently because he asks that his readers do so as well. Rereading the fine print of Cathy duplicates the readers' reading and, Steinbeck would hope, readers' identification with the fine print of their own psyches. In this novel about the power of good and evil to shape lives, Steinbeck muses about fiction, fact, creativity and truth—and asks his reader to do the same. Thou mayest' create a self.

Does Cathy become less terrifying at the end of the book, more human? This question remains open. Is her giving Aron money an act of kindness—her only one—or her final act of revenge, forcing him to accept tainted money, her own?

In this novel, characters shift identities. They recreate selves.

Learn more about Abra's role


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