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 through 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 the 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 with 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 him 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 though 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; this 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 the character’s life style 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 in 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. Long 6 The falling action takes place right after Aron discovers the existence of his mother. 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 life style 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. Steinbecks images are depicted throughout the novel, East of Eden.
Cathy Ames As The Devil In John Steinbeck's East Of Eden
Cathy Ames as the Devil in East of Eden
East of Eden was a novel that explored the roots of evil in its most primal form. Through intricate plot lines and complex characters, John Steinbeck weaved a tale of brutality, cruelty, and isolation. One important character that helped to illustrate the presence of evil throughout the book was Cathy Ames, an intelligent woman who ruthlessly used other people to serve her own needs. When reflecting upon East of Eden, a debate that often surfaces is whether Cathy's evil was a result of nature or nurture. Arguments for and against both sides are in the book. At some times, Cathy is portrayed as a wicked fiend who's aggression stems from nowhere but her own empty heart. Other times, Cathy appears weak and afraid of people who aren't the least bit intimidating. Those are the moments in the book where one must question whether Cathy is truly evil, or just an impatient and self-centered individual.
Cathy's upbringing did not seem to be a likely place to foster dissent and animosity in the young girl. Her parents were loving and eager to educate and entertain Cathy. Unfortunately, Cathy was not a standard child. She was quite different from other children. This fact was very obvious to Cathy's parents and the townspeople. Similar to other children, she learned how to use certain facts and pieces of information to her advantage. However, Cathy's vast cleverness set her apart from other children in that she used much more sensitive information dealing with adult issues for her manipulative purposes. Whatever she did as a child was cold and calculated. Cathy's actions as a youngster seem to point to the conclusion that her sinfulness came from nature and not nurture.
A disturbing scene in the book describes how Cathy's parents died in a house fire. It is quite obvious from the text that Cathy was the culprit of the horrible tragedy. Among the other atrocities she committed included mentally torturing her English teacher to the point where he eventually took his own life and...
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