East of Eden Chapter 4
by John Steinbeck

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Chapter 4

Enraged by the nearly fatal beating of Adam, Cyrus sets off with a shotgun to find and kill Charles. Charles gets wind of his father’s intent and wisely hides until the threat has passed. Back at the Trask home, Alice nurses Adam back to health. While his wounds are healing, Cyrus has emissaries from the Army come to his bedside and swear his son into service. Adam finds the whole business of soldiering as distasteful as he had expected. He could never find purpose in what seemed to be senseless and useless killing. He becomes so disgusted by his job that he begins to deliberately “firing to miss,” an act, that, had it been discovered, would be considered treason. While with his unit, Charles begins regularly writing to his brother. One long letter contains information about their father who has become so convincing in his role as a war hero that he has ingratiated himself with some of the country’s most important leaders, including the President. Charles also speaks of his loneliness and isolation following the death of his mother. He longs for a wife but makes no specific mention of any prospects nor any plans for seeking out a suitable mate. His letter concludes with the fervent wish that Adam might come back home and live with him again. Although Adam has not responded with a letter in kind, he keeps Charles letter and reads it repeatedly. Something about it bothers him, but not in a way he can put into words.