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East of Eden (1952)

by John Steinbeck

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
18,737340158 (4.39)1 / 845
Adam and Charles Trask are raised by their stern father to become soldiers. But even as boys, they are at war. Adam's gentle passivity enrages the fiercely competitive Charles, who is sure his father favors Adam. Cathy Ames is beautiful but amoral; she uses the world to get what she wants. When Adam falls under her spell, she become a force that will poison both brothers and the future generations of two families.… (more)
  1. 160
    The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (Booksloth)
  2. 51
    The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (John_Vaughan)
  3. 40
    Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (5hrdrive)
    5hrdrive: epic western novel with similar voice
  4. 30
    Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck (cometahalley, cometahalley)
  5. 20
    Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (cometahalley)
  6. 20
    Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald (sushidog)
    sushidog: Epic family novels
  7. 20
    The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (cometahalley)
  8. 20
    Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey (weener)
    weener: An epic, fascinating family drama.
  9. 10
    The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street by Naguib Mahfouz (paulkid)
    paulkid: These books are fathers-and-sons family epics that are set around the turn of the (20th) century. They both have philosophical and coming-of-age themes as well.
  10. 00
    A Journey into Steinbeck's California by Susan Shillinglaw (Waldstein)
    Waldstein: Fascinating coffee table book, lavishly illustrated with photos and maps, well-written too. Sort of Steinbeck's "Californian" biography, though it also covers his living in New York and travels to Mexico. Plenty of interesting real-life background of "East of Eden" and many of his other works. Compelling insight into Steinbeck's personality.… (more)
  11. 00
    The Notebook / The Proof / The Third Lie by Ágota Kristóf (UrliMancati)
  12. 00
    Años Inolvidables by John Dos Passos (cometahalley)
  13. 02
    Abel Sánchez by Miguel de Unamuno (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: The story of Cain and Abel reimagined in a more modern setting
1950s (9)
To Read (141)
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English (324)  French (3)  Italian (3)  German (2)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (338)
Showing 1-5 of 324 (next | show all)
After having been forced to read [b:The Grapes of Wrath|4395|The Grapes of Wrath|John Steinbeck|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1511302892l/4395._SY75_.jpg|2931549] in high school, I was completely put off from any of Steinbeck's other novels, as many others have been. Lately, however, I've had a strange desire to revisit that novel, feeling like I would better appreciate it now, but [b:East of Eden|4406|East of Eden|John Steinbeck|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1544744853l/4406._SY75_.jpg|2574991] was the only one of his works that I had on my bookshelf. Although the 600-page book seemed daunting at first, I found it to actually be a quick but profound and marvelous read -- an instant favorite. I don't think I've ever been so entranced by a novel, or so utterly satisfied with its conclusion. ( )
  cfickett | Jul 2, 2020 |
And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.
And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect.
And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee [shall be] his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
And the LORD said unto Cain, Where [is] Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: [Am] I my brother's keeper?
Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, [that] every one that findeth me shall slay me.
And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.
And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.

To understand this book, one would have to have read about Cain and Abel in the Bible. I have always been fascinated with this story when I used to go to Sunday school. Maybe because just like the character of Samuel Hamilton, I always thought that poor Cain who just wanted to be praised by the Lord like his brother, would not have done what he did unless he felt as if he were loved as well.

And I also believe that just like what the character of Lee says, to use what someone else does as an excuse to do harm to others is a weak and cowardly thing. This book really is about men overcoming their knee jerk need to cause harm or to sin onto someone else because of their pain of not being loved by their fathers.

I really can't point to one person as the main character in this book. We get an omnipotent narrator who we then find is an offspring of one of the characters in this book. It takes some time, but we find out that the narrator is a boy/man and is named John. I found out afterwards that the character of John is supposed to represent John Steinbeck himself.

Even though there were so many characters in East of Eden I could actually describe each and every one of them to you. That is how well John Steinbeck goes about setting up these characters and showing how these two families ended up becoming entwined with one another over the years.

The book starts right after the Civil War where we follow Cyrus Task after he returns home to Connecticut after the war. Cyrus first wife delivers their son Adam and after she passes away, Cyrus marries again and his second wife bears him a son named Charles. We find out about Adam and Charles's childhood and how though Charles is smarter, tougher, that for some reason Cyrus seems to love Adam more.

Then we go to the Hamilton family that lives in Salinas Valley, California. We then transition to the Hamilton family and find out about Samuel and Liza Hamilton and their 9 children. Though Samuel is rich in family and friends, he is poor. He has pie in the sky dreams and no matter what he does cannot seem to get ahead.

Other important characters in this book are Cathy Ames, Adam's two twin boys, Aron and Caleb (Cal), Lee, a manservant working for Adam, and Abra a childhood friend of Aron and Cal.

I can honestly say that no character besides the character of It in Stephen King's book, It, has scared me as much as Cathy Ames did in this book. Kudos to John Steinbeck for writing someone like this. I often have said that what is truly scary to me are books that show how horrible human beings can be to each other. I think in the end though that the character of Cathy seems to change slightly and that seemed to me to not be realistic. Everything up until then showed what a cold person she was, it just seemed out of character for her to all of a sudden do something that in the end could be considered a "good thing".

The character of Adam I found to be super frustrating from beginning to end. I went from sympathy, pity to finally annoyance with him by the end of the book. That said, I loved the discussions that he had with Samuel and Lee. The discussion the trio has about Cain and Abel and what does it mean in the Bible with regards to what happened to Cain were some of my favorite parts of this book. I loved the interpretation of Lee about how thou mayest (or timshel) means that it was up to Cain to be a better man, to overcome his own nature and be forgiven for what he had done. And that one cannot use the excuse of who your mother/father is for why you do the things that you do.

Cal ended up being my favorite character. He to a lesser extent is a more thoughtful and loving version of his Uncle Charles. To read about his struggle to not do horrible things because he was angry at his father's lack of affection made me sympathize with him in a way that I could not do with Adam.

Aron ended up bugging me in the same way that Adam did. Both of these men were dreamers and ended up ignoring anything that was bad or unpleasant. They both just did not see people for who they were and because of that, I think caused a lot of unnecessary pain to everyone that was around them.

The pacing of the book seems to be off here and there though. I think that is because some of the asides to the Hamilton family didn't really work everywhere. Everything with Samuel, Lee, and Adam I enjoyed. It just seemed at times when we went to explore some of the other Hamilton family members that the book started to feel a bit too long to me. For example, we spent a lot of time on Tom and Dessie Hamilton and I honestly think that there was no need to include them as much as Steinbeck did in this book. In the end there seemed to be an abundance of Hamiltons and other family members in this book. If they were not connected to the Trask family at all I found myself getting slightly bored with them.

The writing was excellent. The beginning of this book where Steinbeck describes Salinas Valley was beautiful. I felt as if I could see and smell everything that he was describing.

The ending leaves the reader with a sense of hope. Hope that even if we are not our parents favorite, or even if our parents do a horrible and awful thing, that we are still our own persons. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
A beautiful book
not just a bible story
in California. ( )
  Eggpants | Jun 25, 2020 |
Epic and engaging. There is so much to this book in so many ways. Even with just 3 pages left to go, I had no idea how he would end it, and the ending was well done. ( )
  mitchtroutman | Jun 14, 2020 |
I think what I don't like about this novel is its hyperbolic and somewhat sophomoric treatment of the natures of good and evil. Because most of its characters are two-dimensional, I never managed to care about any of their fates. Cal, moving slightly away from the flatness of Steinbeck's other characters, is the only exception; he is conflicted and tormented, unlike his purely diabolical mother and almost beatific father and brother. (Even the "good" characters are preternaturally good.) There is a reason why Iago, vicious and calculating though he may be, is such a perfectly-conceived villain -- his malevolence is not without explanation. Thomas Sutpen is so brilliant an artistic creation because the reader finds in him real human longing juxtaposed with despicable impulses. Great characters require complexity. Is the inherently soulless individual more terrifying? Perhaps, but not necessarily more artful. I do like the philosophical message, drawn from biblical allusions and the [b:Meditations|30659|Meditations|Marcus Aurelius|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1421618636s/30659.jpg|31010] of Marcus Aurelius: "For everything that exists is in a manner the seed of that which will be." ( )
1 vote TheaJean | Jun 2, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 324 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Steinbeck, JohnAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Artadi, Vicente deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
De Angelis, GiulioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eggink, ClaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kahn, HarryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Linturi, JoukoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Poe, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyatt, DavidIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Pascal Covici

Dear Pat,

You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said, "Why don't you make something for me?" I asked you what you wanted, and you said, "A box." "What for?" "To put things in." "What things?" "Whatever you have," you said. Well, here's your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts--the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.

And on top of these are all the graditude and love I have for you. And still the box is not full.

JOHN

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The Salinas Valley is in Northern California.
Quotations
You must not forget that a monster is only a variation, and that to a monster the norm is monstrous.
I don't very much believe in blood. I think when a man finds good or bad in his children he is seeing only what he planted in them after they cleared the womb. - Samuel Hamilton
And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual.
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Often described as Steinbeck's most ambitious novel, East of Eden brings to life the intricate details of two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons, and their interwoven stories.
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141185074, 0241952492

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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