What is the summary for Chapter 5 of East of Eden?

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jfwheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chapter 5 returns to the saga of the Hamilton’s and offers a genealogy of their nine children:  George, “a sinless boy who grew to be a sinless man”; Will, who had “little imagination but great energy”;  Tom, “born in fury and…lived in lightening”;  Joe, “mooning and…greatly beloved”: Una, “thoughtful and serious”; Lizzie, who “married young and went away”; Mollie, the “little beauty”; Dessie, with her “constant laughter”; and Olive, who would be Steinbeck’s mother.

The family is poor but secure, and that is largely due to their matriarch, Liza.  Although she was humorless, she was also tenacious; she kept the family afloat during their lifetime of hardships. Liza enjoyed “universal respect because she was a good woman who raised good children.”

Samuel appears to be the polar opposite of his hard little wife, a dreamer who was as likely to doodle “faces or animals or bugs” as he was a new invention.  He loved a good joke and a strong drink as much as his wife abhorred both. 

Samuel balances his wife’s hardness with his softness, and together they created a family that anyone could be proud of, despite their continual poverty.  Steinbeck, acting as the omniscient narrator says, “All in all it was a good firm-grounded family, permanent and successfully planted in the Salinas Valley... It was a well-balanced family with its conservatives and its radicals, its dreamers and its realists.”