Title: East of Eden
Author: John Steinbeck
A masterpiece of Biblical scope, and the magnum opus of one of America’s most enduring authors
A Penguin Classic
In his journal, Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck called East of Eden “the first book,” and indeed it has the primordial power and simplicity of myth. Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel 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.
The masterpiece of Steinbeck’s later years, East of Eden is a work in which Steinbeck created his most mesmerizing characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love’s absence. Adapted for the 1955 film directed by Elia Kazan introducing James Dean and read by thousands as the book that brought Oprah’s Book Club back, East of Eden has remained vitally present in American culture for over half a century.
This edition features an introduction by David Wyatt.
Finally finished reading this, and my head is still spinning.
The book can basically be summed up in the one word that Lee so carelessly translated for the readers: you may. In the context of the story, it means that a person has a choice as to whether or not they will overcome sin instead of the more popular translation that shows a command of the same passage.
The entire story shows the arcs of good and evil, brother versus brother, first with Adam and his brother than with Adam’s sons, Cal and Aron. The way the plot builds from one generation to the next, showing the way that sin may or may not conquer a person really leaves you thinking.
For some of the characters, such as Cathy, there was no doubt that she would make the choice to follow sin, to revel in it. As a self-proclaimed monster feeling as if there was something missing from her, she felt as if she had no other choice in the world. Stuck between her as his mother, and his kind-hearted father choosing kindness after the horrors Cathy inflicted on him left Cal at a crossroads as to how to approach the darkness he believed himself to possess.
And at the end, after his brother’s death and his father lays dying, Cal is once again presented with the choice to hate himself and drown in his loathing for what he’s done, or to live an honorable life, cherishing those he’s lost.
A powerful, powerful story.