East of Eden Questions and Answers
by John Steinbeck

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What is the summary for Chapter 17 of East of Eden?

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Steinbeck returns as narrator and speculates on the nature of Cathy.  He cannot decide if his earlier assessment, that she was “a natural born monster” was correct.  The problem, he reasons, is that “since we cannot know what she wanted, we will never know if she got it.” 

Cathy is nearing the end of her pregnancy.  Adam continues to be oblivious to her lack of interest in either him or their baby.

On the Hamilton farm, Samuel and Tom are doing chores.  Lee, who has ridden frantically to come get Samuel for help, surprises them.  Cathy has gone into labor. 

Samuel arrives to find Cathy deep in the throes of her pains.  It is a frightening spectacle.  She has demanded that all light be blocked from her room and is snarling, showing her teeth.  When Samuel attempts to assist him, she sinks his teeth into his hand.  Despite the pain, Samuel continues to assist Cathy.  She gives birth to fraternal twins.

Cathy shows no interest in the boys.  Samuel becomes increasingly discombobulated.  Liza arrives and stays a week to help in the home. 

A week passes.  Adam returns home to find Cathy’s bedroom door locked.  When she allows him in, he is stunned to find her packed.  She announces that she is going away, leaving both him and the twins.  Cathy calls him a fool; Adam tries to prevent her from leaving.  She shoots him in the shoulder, tosses the pistol on the floor and walks out of the house.

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