Welcome back to the What Are You Reading? Series! If you have no idea what’s going on feel free to take a look at the introductory post. Don’t forget at the end of the post to let me know your own thoughts and interpretations of the book. [Please note that if you haven’t commented before I recommend reading the Commenting Guidelines.]
And today’s book is……. *Drum roll*
East of Eden
Author: John Steinbeck
Genre: Literary Fiction
Original Publication: September 1952
East of Eden follows the lives of three people, Adam and Charles Trask, and Cathy. Adam and Charles, children of a old soldier, have a difficult childhood and eventually become estranged. They return to each other in the event of their father’s death leaving them a suspiciously large sum of money. They find Cathy, beaten and half dead, and Adam falls in love with her while nursing her back to health. But Charles sees her for the manipulator that she really is. After having two boys with Adam, Cathy quietly leaves Adam and runs away to a brothel, that she eventually runs. When they are older the children find out that their mother is actually alive. One brother cannot handle it and decides to join the Army while the other ends up staying home to take care of his father after his stroke.
Okay I get that this is supposed to be a play on the bible story but I can’t pick anything out from this. So confused.
My Real Analysis
I have read quite a few of Steinbeck’s works during my high school years but none of them had reached to me like this one did. His wording is wonderful and I love how he uses Samuel as a sort of conduit of his expression. Especially quotes like:
I’ll tell you now, quiet. In a bitter night, a mustard night that was last night, a good thought came and the darkness sweetened when the day sat down. And this thought went from Evening Star to the late dipper on the edge of the first light – that our betters spoke of.
(Samuel pg. 258)
But then later we have Steinbeck inserting himself within the story to justify his narraration:
We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world it.
When it came to the characters themselves, I admired that he kind of used Charles and Adam as a sort of foreshadowing but also as one interpretation of the story of Cain and Abel. In a way their relationship was a way to show what may have happened if Abel had lived. For them it still didn’t work. So when the next generation comes along, Steinbeck creates a reflection. Cal and Aron are Cal and Adam all over again but with a different outcome. Cal and Charles both loved their father dearly, but only have that love reciprocated without praise, which deep down was what they were looking for. Adam and Aron are deeply loved by their father but are severely detached from it and eventually fall in love with someone that doesn’t really exist, as it is just a facade that they created. This feeling of artificial love is something that would lead to self destruction for all involved. Cal and Aron on the other hand continue to live out the original story and Aron is killed by Cal, though not directly.
Everyone seems to be lacking something, especially when it comes to family the story is focused around, the Trasks. Adam has no real understanding of love and instead falls in love with a fake person that Kate/Cathy creates, and this is something that he somehow hands down to his son Aron. So maybe a lack of reality is what he is missing, a theory that can be further backed if you see how he has acted around his brother after the death of his father. Kate lacks the ability to see good in people, or at least the capability of goodness within others and herself, something that Cal has always fought within himself. In truth, I kind of saw Kate as a psychopath more than anything else.
One thing I really liked though, was Steinbeck’s choice to create multiple storylines that intertwine into one big story.
So that’s my take on this. Ultimately I would love to read this again, and probably will. How about you? Have you read this story? If you have, what was your take on it? How do you think it compares to other works done by Steinbeck? Let me know in the comments below! 😀
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