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Friday, January 8, 2010

East of Eden, by John Steinbeck, 1952 * * * * *

East of Eden refers to the place that Cain was exiled to from the Garden of Eden after killing his brother Abel. Steinbeck's book is a symbolic recreation of the story of Cain and Abel, woven into a history of California's Salinas Valley. Spanning the period betwee the American Civil War and the end of World War I, the novel highlights the conflicts of two generations of brothers. The first set of brothers includes the gentle Adam Trask and his wild brother Charles. The second set of brothers refers to Adam's sons, the twins Aron and Caleb. The enduring themes of light vs. dark, good vs. evil, hatred vs. love, and the ability to choose one's own destiny are paramount to this rich and multi-layered tale. Above all, it is the characters you will long remember from this saga, especially Cathy, the whore with a heart of stone who isone of the most evil characters in all literature. She kills her parents, beds her husband's brother on her wedding night, shoots her husband and desserts her infant sons - all before she turns really bad! As counterpoint, there are Samuel and Lee Hamilton, men who are truly the "salt of the earth." John Steinbeck based the character of Samuel Hamilton on his own maternal grandfather. The story is complex and involving and the characters are unforgettable. I had not read this book since college and remembered again why it is considered one of the great classics.

1 comment:

  1. Rainy what a great book, I really enjoyed reading this book and I think that it was an excellent choice, I agree with your statement that Cathy is the most evil character in literature...