What is the summary for Chapter 3 of East of Eden?

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jfwheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chapter 3 begins with the sad story of young Adam Trask. Adam lives with a belligerent father named Cyrus and with his birth mother.  When Cyrus goes off to war and returns home, he has a “gift” for his wife:  gonorrhea.  Mrs. Trask, none too stable, kills herself by drowning in a puddle.  Cyrus soon gets a second wife, a timid little farm girl called Alice. Alice gives birth to Adam’s half-brother, Charles. 

As the boys grow up, their father’s tall tales about his exploits in the Civil War grow larger.  Although Cyrus was wounded and lost a leg in the fighting, he was hardly a man of any importance.  However, he begins to tell everyone about his feats of bravery.  He gradually believes them himself. 

The boys grow up in fear of their father and mousy little Alice can offer little comfort to either child. 

The remainder of the chapter focuses on Cyrus’ command that Adam prepare himself to go into the Army, a path Adam is deadest against.  He wants nothing to do with the violence and discipline of that life. 

Charles notices the attention that Cyrus gives Adam and becomes homicidally enraged. Charles nearly beats to Adam to death, confessing as he does so that he believes their father does not love him.  As evidence, Charles sites their birthday gifts to Cyrus.  Charles had worked hard to buy him a special knife.  Adam adopted a stray dog for their father.  The dog became Cyrus’ constant companion, while the knife went untouched