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East of Eden by John Steinbeck
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East of Eden (original 1952; edition 2002)

by John Steinbeck

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13,532None156 (4.42)1 / 633
Member:Scott_West
Title:East of Eden
Authors:John Steinbeck
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (2002), Edition: CENTENNIAL EDITION, Paperback, 601 pages
Collections:Your library
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Work details

East of Eden by John Steinbeck (1952)

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English (216)  French (2)  German (2)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (224)
Showing 1-5 of 216 (next | show all)
this is a shadowing of the Cain and Abel story, and thus about family life involving a pair of families in the Salinas valley of California. We follow two generations as they intertwine. The families have characters that illustrate all reactions to a family from selfless actions to deliberate attempts to destroy the whole structure. Perhaps Steinbeck's best novel. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Apr 12, 2014 |
Reading this again...such an enjoyable read. ( )
  Tinamonster | Feb 14, 2014 |
This is at the very top of my list of favorite books. This book is a friend that needs to be revisited after a while. Steinbeck at his absolute best. ( )
  Pharis | Jan 4, 2014 |
“We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the neverending 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 is.”

I was all set to read The Grapes of Wrath as my next Steinbeck after Of Mice and Men, but around the time I was reading Mice, several literary friends told me that East of Eden was among the greatest books they'd ever read. Ah well, I thought, maybe it's meant to be. So I changed my plans, and I have to say, I'm so glad I did, although I'm sure Grapes is a brilliant novel as well.

I am certain that there has never been a book quite like East of Eden. It's a doorstopper a of a book, a multi-generational tale with so many interweaving plot lines that, being an Anglophile, I couldn't help but think of the great Victorian novels. Yet at the same time it is so American. In some ways it is about America. But it's also about family, and the progress of the human race, and jealousy and fraternal love. It's about Steinbeck's own family. It's about predestination and choice. It's about Adam and Eve. It's about Cain and Abel. It's about you and me.

The Trask family provides the fuel for the basic plot; the Hamiltons, Steinbeck's ancestors, are dispensable to the action, but not to the story, for they provide a striking counterpoint to the more violent Trasks. They have tragedies of their own, but they are quieter tragedies. My favorite character in the book is the Hamilton patriarch, Samuel, Steinbeck's maternal grandfather. He is an Irish immigrant, a blacksmith who settles down with his wife and raises nine children on a rough, infertile patch of land in the Salinas Valley. He has a certain wryness about him, perhaps due to an early romantic disappointment, but is generally good-humored, and among the wisest characters in this book—and in literature in general. Being the token Irish character, he also has the gifts of gab and blarney, and is the channel for some of Steinbeck's most beautiful prose. There's one scene where he and his sons are drilling wells on Adam Trask's land and encounter a rock that Samuel suspects is a meteorite. This discovery sends Samuel into a kind of rapturous trance, and a flight of fancy that pours out in cataracts of pure language and imagery.

The Trask plot centers around two sets of brothers: Adam and Charles, and Cal and Aron. Adam and Charles grow up on a Connecticut farm, the sons of a Civil War vet and inveterate liar, another instrument for Steinbeck's eloquence. Charles is incredibly violent towards Adam, so their father sends the latter off to war to save him and make a man out of him. When the old man dies, Charles stays on their farm, but Adam marries a girl named Cathy and gives birth to the twins Cal and Aron.

I believe Steinbeck has gotten quite a bit of flack from feminists over the character of Cathy Ames (also known as Kate Trask in other sections of the novel), whom Steinbeck describes as a monster, a child who was born without a conscience as such. I would have to explore more of his bibliography in order to determine of Steinbeck really was off-balance and unfair in his depiction of women, but based on this novel alone, I would be slow to make the claim. The other major female character, Abra, is a decent human being without being a Dickensian angel. Cathy is, yes, a psychopath, to say the least. But that's not shown to be rooted in her gender, or typical of women. If the book featured a male psycopath, would anyone carp? She's simply a villainess, and a very good one.

I went into the book knowing that it was at least partially a retelling of Cain and Abel, so I was looking for parallels from the beginning. I saw a few with Adam and Charles, but soon grew so caught up in the story and the characters that I forgot, until Cal and Adam turned up. The parallels are more explicit here, and Steinbeck is highly sympathetic to the Cain character. In many ways Cal ends up being the central figure of the book, even though he appears so late in it. (The only other contender for the title would be Adam.) I was caught off-guard by the way in which Steinbeck re-figured Cain's offering and Abel's death. It is really masterful storytelling.

There is so much to say about East of Eden, and yet I feel inadequate to describe how marvelous it is. Certainly a book that I will return to, again and again. ( )
  ncgraham | Dec 26, 2013 |
Like all excellent books, this one works on many different levels. There is the basic storyline - "what will happen next?" - where Steinbeck intertwines the story of his heritage with the story of the Trasks. There so much color in the setting of Salinas valley and of the historical setting of these families. On another level, Steinbeck is working out and over the story of Cain and Abel. We see it played out in two generations and we see his main characters reflect on the meaning of the biblical story with all its implications for choice and fate. Finally, there are the close up character studies of such people as Kate (what a great picture of a sociopath) and Adam and Aron (men living so far in their ideals that they never can see the reality in front of them, or at least, not without a lot of help). I truly loved Lee and found myself feeling both admiration and empathy for Charles as he moved through the maturing process, guided by Lee's wise hand. ( )
  tjsjohanna | Dec 26, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 216 (next | show all)
Novelist Steinbeck has done some of his best writing in East of Eden. As always, he describes his Salinas Valley with fidelity and charm. Moreover, individual scenes and yarns are frequently turned with great skill. But whether as a novel about pioneers in a new country or just men & women working out their private, earthly fates, East of Eden is too blundering and ill-defined to make its story point. That point, says Steinbeck, is "the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil." East of Eden has over-generous portions of both, but a novelist who knows what he wants channels them, he doesn't spill them.
added by Shortride | editTime (Sep 22, 1952)
 
Probably the best of John Steinbeck's novels... ["East of Eden's"] dramatic center is a narrow story of social horror that rests quite disarmingly on the proposition that "there are monsters born in the world to human parents." But through the exercise of a really rather remarkable freedom of his rights as a novelist, Mr. Steinbeck weaves in, and more particularly around, this story of prostitution a fantasia of history and of myth that results in a strange and original work of art.
added by Shortride | editThe New York Times Book Review, Mark Schorer (pay site) (Sep 21, 1952)
 
A fine, lusty sense of life is here, a delight in the spectacle of men and women struggling in the age-old ways to meet their separate destines, and an abundance of good story-telling... John Steinbeck has grown in his respect for his fellow human beings, in his understanding of them. He has reached mature and thoughtful conclusions about them. And he has expressed his conclusions in interesting and thought-provoking fashion.
added by Shortride | editThe New York Times, Orville Prescott (pay site) (Sep 19, 1952)
 

» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Steinbeck, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eggink, ClaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Linturi, JoukoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Poe, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyatt, DavidIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
Dedication
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

First words
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.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
East of Eden was written by John Steinbeck, not Ernest Hemingway.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
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.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142000655, Paperback)

FOR USE IN SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES ONLY. The biblical account of Cain and Abel is echoed in the history of two generations of the Trask family in California.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:54:27 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

This sprawling and often brutal novel, set in the rich farmlands of California's Salinas Valley, follows the intertwined destinies of two families--the Trasks and the Hamiltons--whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141185074, 0241952492

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