East of Eden Some of the most aspiring and influential authors show to be American novelists. American novelists brought about a new style of writing, which became very popular. John Steinbeck shows this style of writing in his novel, East of Eden. This makes Steinbeck one of the most significant American novelists in the twentieth century.

East of Eden contains many parts, which add detail and interest to the novel. Many of Steinbeck’s novels and other works remain and continue to be nationally acclaimed. Many elements exist in East of Eden that bring about the meaning and concept of the novel. The study of John Steinbeck and his book, East of Eden, will help the reader better understand the element of fiction and interpret the meaning of the work. John Steinbeck was born on February 27, 1902 in Salinas, California.

Between 1919 and 1925 Steinbeck was acknowledged as a special student at Stanford University. According to Peter Lisac, “Variously employed as a had-carrier, fruit-picker, apprentice printer, laboratory assistant, caretaker, surveyor, reporter, writer, and foreign correspondent let him acquire knowledge in many areas.” (1) Even in his youth, Steinbeck developed a love of the natural world and diverse cultures. Steinbeck produced two children from his second wife, Elaine Scott.

The early 1930’s became a struggle for Steinbeck, both in his Long 2 attempts to improve his writing and his day-to-day existence. Yet, in the 1940’s he turned his main interest from sociology and biology to individual ethics. Steinbeck was honored in 1962 with the Nobel Prize in Literature. He regarded East of Eden as the accumulation of his career.

Steinbeck died of heart disease in New York on November 20, 1968. In addition to East of Eden, Steinbeck produced many other novels and several volumes of short fiction in his early career. Most of Steinbeck’s novels and stories are set in the Salinas Valley in California where he spent most of his life.

Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel, Grapes of Wrath which makes him best known. According to John Timmerman, ”Grapes of Wrath studies the problems migrant workers encountered while traveling from Oklahoma to California.” (1) Steinbeck wrote eighteen books throughout his life span.

Some of his novels included Of Mice and Men, Cannery Row, Tortilla Flat, The Moon is Down, The Red Pony, and many others. Of Mice and Men gained Steinbeck national recognition. Saint Katy the Virgin, Nothing So Monstrous, The Long Valley, How Edith McGillcuddy, and The Crapshooter are Steinbeck’s volumes of short stories.

The book’s main theme of good versus evil gets tangled up with Steinbeck’s account of his material family, the Hamiltons. Some of the writings about the Hamilton’s do not seem to contribute to the story.

According to Peter Lisca, “The author switches back and forth from the Hamilton’s to the fictional Trask family with no apparent purpose.” (2) Steinbeck interjects himself into the Long 3 novel using “I” randomly, which confuses the readers.

Although the author relied on the good versus evil theme, he seems to struggle with the question of free will. Steinbeck does succeed with this theme in the character of Cal, who fights a moral inner battle. East of Eden contains a very basic and well-known theme of good and evil. Steinbeck’s story is based on Cain and Abel and the word Timshel.

“Adam looked up with sick weariness. His lips parted and failed and tried again. Then his lungs filled. He expelled the air and his lips combed the rushing sigh. His whispered word seemed to hang in the air: Timshel!.” (602; ch. 55) Cain and Abel being Cal and Aron bring about the theme with their own actions.

In the novel, Cathy Ames is shown as having no good only evil. But she shows some goodness at the end of the novel when she goes to the church to see her abandoned son. People are responsible for their own actions. A person chooses to be good or evil.

The theme discusses Heaven and Hell, right and wrong, and truth and lie. The protagonist of the novel is Cal Trask. Cal Trask is the son of Adam Trask and the brother of Aron. Cal holds a manipulative nature to him. He feels very guilty when he hurts people intentionally or unintentionally.

Cal represents Cain in the bible. In the novel, Cal feels bitter towards his brother Aron. “From his first memory, Cal had craved warmth and affection, just as everyone does. If he had been an only child or if Aron had been a Long 4 different kind of boy, Cal might have achieved his relationship normally or easily. (444; ch. 38)

Their father seems to favor Aron throughout the novel. This makes Cal want to seek revenge against his own brother, Aron. The antagonist in the novel, East of Eden is Cathy Ames. Cathy Ames is full of evilness. She is thought of as being a monster.

“I believe there are monsters born in the world… It is my belief that Cathy Ames was born with the tendencies, or lack of them, which drove and forced her all of her life.” (96 ch.9.) Cathy kills her parents by burning their house down with them inside. She then tries to kill Adam and Mr. Edwards.

The reader never knows what she is thinking or about to do; thus creating the novel’s expense. The only normal thing about Cathy appears to be her looks. Since the only love she knows is hatred. Many minor characters exist throughout the novel. Adam Trask is the father of Cal and Aron Trask.

He was an army veteran and used to be married to Cathy Ames. “Adam was discharged in 1885 and started to beat his way home. There was no military carriage for him.” (47; ch. 6) Aron Trask is Cal’s brother. He lives in a fantasy world by thinking that everything is holy. Lee is Adam’s Chinese housekeeper. He practically raised Cal and Aron for their first year. Samuel Hamilton helped out Adam Trask after Cathy left him.

The exposition of East of Eden takes place in the Salinas Valley in Northern California. Long 5 “It is a long swale between two ranges on mountains, and the Salinas River winds and twists up the center until it falls at last into the Monterey Bay.” (3; ch. 1) The entire novel takes place in the Salinas Valley. The setting was very realistic and detailed. This is because Steinbeck grew up and spent most of his life in the Salinas Valley. Two families are introduced into the story the Hamilton’s and the Trask’s.

The members of the families are introduced and the reader gets an idea of the character’s lifestyle and personality. The rising action brings about the suspense and curiosity of the novel. All of Cal and Aron’s lives they were told and thought that their mother, Cathy was dead. So at the beginning of the novel, the subject of their mother is not a major.

Cathy had changed her name to Kate and was living a few towns down from the Trask’s. Cal found out that his mother was alive and was an owner of a brothel. Then one day he went to encounter her about the whole situation. The climax occurs when Adam Trask loses most of his money in an unsuccessful cabbage business.

Cal decides he wants to make it up to him by making money in the bean industry and giving the profit to his father. On his father’s birthday, he surprises him with the $15,000 dollars he made off the bean industry. Aron on the same day tells his father of his engagement. Adam only rejected the money saying that the pride that Aron gave him was better than the money. This makes Cal very bitter with Aron and wanting to seek revenge he takes him to his mother; which he does not know about.

Aron becomes very shocked to find out about his mother and the brothel he disappears. His father receives a letter later saying he joined the army. Aron is killed in the war. Cal feels guilty and blames himself for the death of Cal. Adam was so upset by Aron’s death that he went into shock and died. On Adam’s death bed Cal asks him for forgiveness and all he says is “Timshel.”

The novel, East of Eden has a biological approach. A biological approach deals with the author and his lifestyle shown in the novel. Steinbeck shows many of his characteristics of his life in East of Eden. His family and where he lived are seen vividly in the novel. The Salinas Valley is the setting of the novel and also where Steinbeck grew up. Steinbeck’s images are depicted throughout the novel, East of Eden.

author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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