East of Eden Chapter 16
by John Steinbeck

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Chapter 16

On his way home, Samuel tries again to put his finger on just what it is about Cathy that bothers him so much. He concludes that it is her eyes. “They were not human eyes,” he thinks. The sudden realization causes Samuel to recall a disturbing childhood memory. Young Samuel had gone into town with his father. Everything is normal for a time, but then father and son are swept away in a crowd. The people are packed in so tightly that they are unable to get away. Mr. Hamilton picks up the child. Samuel strains to see over the tops of the crowd. Briefly, the boy spies a platform and a “golden man” whose eyes “had no depth.” Quickly, his father forces Samuel to turn his head. The trapdoor in the platform opens and the golden man is hung. Samuel never forgot those disturbing eyes. It is the same look that Cathy has in her own eyes. The next morning Samuel subtly tries to feel out Liza about her feelings about what he has observed during his visit to the Trask estate and his plans to work for Adam. Liza is nonplussed. She is not impressed with money. But what disturbs Liza most is his report of what Cathy had been doing during his time there: nothing. She did not sew or mend or knit. Idleness, in Liza’s opinion, is a terrible sin. She considers refusing to allow Samuel and her boys to do the work. Eventually she relents, but against her better judgment.