Sunday, January 13, 2013

Library Reads: John Steinbeck's East of Eden

Cathy Ames will probably be the scariest literary figure you ever read in any book, and this isn't a horror novel. John Steinbeck takes his writings on the human condition to a whole new level in East of Eden. Steinbeck show the thin line that humans always travel between good and evil in his writings like The Pearl, but East of Eden is like a journey through one lineage to defeat the cycle that has almost destroyed their family.

Beginning by establishing the setting on a farmland in California's Salinas Valley, this novel tells of two families, the Trasks, and the Hamiltons  as their lives begin to cross paths. Their lives are loosley based on the the Biblical story of Adam and Eve. Though it is shaped from this story the characters deal with the struggle of finding their own identities apart from the ones their family has established, the good they want to find in themselves, and the pride they want their loved ones to have in them as they work to succeed in carrying on their own name. The novel builds up to two men, Cal and Aron, who have to face the own holes that their family has dug in the hopes of sorting out their feelings for the love of the same woman, Abra.

This novel is brutal, and beautiful to read, and why no one has gave this a full length movie featuring all the characters with their stories in tact on screen is a mystery yet to be solved. Most of the time this book will come out way too depressing for anyone to make it through it, or just way too dark. Cathy Ames being the primary example. She is an interesting character, but she is way worse than any character from a horror novel you will read, and that is because she is based in fiction that seems more like actuality. East of Eden isn't intended to be any genre like that, but discussing the struggles of the human condition are bound to get you quite down about life. The outcome when you are done reading a novel like this is huge though. The final pages are some of the most powerful you will find.

Even the characters like Adam, and Aron who seem good have some trait they struggle with that while you want to like them makes them just as flawed, and annoying as the ones intended to be read as more mean or hateful. From the moment you begin reading though something about this novel catches you. Since the plot isn't heavily laid out anywhere except for it being about a family leading to an ultimately devastating collision, you never know what to expect next, or with what characters you are trying to lead up to. The fact it is divided into parts does help you stay on task of reading this huge novel.

There are many though who will say Cathy is way to dark of a character for them to make it through the novel. Her scenes are interesting, but emotionally draining. The most memorable, and touching character of them all is Cal though. He is Aron's twin brother, and Adam and Cathy son. As you can imagine with his very bad heritage, and the fact his brother is considered the more likable of the two by most who meet both the boys, he has a lot to overcome to be a normal human being. The very final scene with him is worth the pages you will read to get to that moment. It is sad, and amazing all in the same moment. You also can't help but love other characters like Lee, Sam, Liza, and Abra.

Besides the very detail to character taken, Steinbeck has a beautiful way with words. He knows how to carry you away in a scene by setting it up. If you weren't a fan of his other novels like The Grapes of Wrath, then don't let that deter you from trying this one.  There is something about it that is different in context, and it has a more personal touch to it when you read it. It's a novel that tackles so many themes regarding human's struggles that it is timeless no matter how old you are. East of Eden is one of those novels that may be really depressing to read, but is worth the the perspective and touching moments it gives.

Rating 5 of 5.



  1. This review has really made me want to read this book! I've never read anything from Steinbeck, but I'm a huge human condition fan

  2. Yeah! :) It was the one I recommended to you. I liked this one, and The Pearl a good bit from him. It's got some slow parts with it being 600 pages long, but it's one of the best reads I've had.


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