|“||They looked at me and thought they knew about me. And I fooled them. I fooled every one of them. And when they thought they could tell me what to do—oh! that's when I fooled them best.||„|
|~ Cathy, bragging about her gift for manipulating people.|
Cathy Ames, also known as "Kate Albey" and "Kate Trask", is the main antagonist of John Steinbeck's novel East of Eden. She is the wife of main character Adam Trask, and the mother of his sons Cal and Aron.
Steinbeck characterizes Cathy as a "psychic monster" with a "malformed soul". She is an evil woman who manipulates and destroys people for her own amusement and profit. She is a master of bending people to her will, especially men. She conceals her true nature with her physical beauty and a practiced facade of innocence and kindness, but a few characters are able to see her for who she really is by looking into her eyes, which Steinbeck describes as cold, emotionless and "not human". She also reveals her true nature when she gets drunk, which is why she never touches alcohol.
Cathy harms everyone she comes in contact with from a young age. When her parents catch her fooling around with two boys, she accuses them of trying to rape her and takes pleasure in watching them being punished. A few years later, she drives her Latin professor to suicide by toying with his affections. When she turns 18, she robs and murders her parents and runs away from home.
She briefly takes up with a whoremaster named Mr. Edwards, but he realizes she is using him and gives her a savage beating, leaving her to die. She is found by farmer Adam Trask and his brother Charles, who take her in and nurse her back to health.
Charles sees through Cathy, but Adam falls in love with her and asks her to marry him; she says yes in order to gain protection from Mr. Edwards. One night, she drugs Adam to sleep and has sex with Charles. She gets pregnant soon afterward with twin boys; it is implied that they may be Charles' children.
After the boys, Cal and Aron, are born, Cathy tells Adam she is leaving him, and shoots him in the shoulder when he tries to stop her. She changes her name to Kate Albey and starts working at a brothel. She endears herself to the madame, Faye, who eventually names her the chief beneficiary of her will; Kate then murders her with poison. She takes over the brothel, which she turns into a den of sexual sadism.
When Adam shows up at the brothel to take her back, she laughs at him and tells him the boys are not his. Adam visits her again a few years later after Charles dies to give her money he had left her. Puzzled and angered by his kindness, she accuses him of trying to control her. She shows him pictures of several important figures in the community at her brothel, and denounces the human race as hypocrites; she declares that she "would rather be a dog than a human". Adam finally realizes that she is a monster, and leaves, declaring that he pities her. When the boys are old enough to ask about their mother, Adam tells them she is dead.
Several years later, Cal learns that his mother is still alive and operating a brothel. He visits her, and she is immediately uncomfortable with his goodness and professed love for his father. She spitefully tells him that he is just like her; he replies that she is simply afraid, and leaves. At about this time, two of her employees find out what really happened to Faye, and Kate frames them for murder.
Some time later, Cal brings Aron to see Kate. Aron is repulsed by her, and flees in horror. Her son's rejection makes Kate finally confront who and what she is, and she loses the will to live. She signs all her possessions over to Aron, and commits suicide by drinking poison. Steinbeck wrote East of Eden as an allegory for the Bible, and intended Cathy /Kate to represent both Eve and Satan.
- In the 1955 film adaptation, she was played by Jo Van Fleet, who won an Academy Award for her performance.
- In the 1982 TV miniseries adaptation, she was portrayed by Jane Seymour, who also portrayed Solitaire in Live and Let Die.
- In the upcoming two-part film adaptation, she is portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence, who also portrayed Mystique in the X-Men film series and Mother in mother!.