Steinbeck celebrates freedom to choose

Beans under early morning sunlight
Beans in early morning sunlight

Adam Trask and his brother, never on good terms, part after Adam marries Cathy Ames, whose depravity is hidden by golden beauty. Cathy bears twin boys,  leaves Adam, and worms her way into the ownership of a brothel. Sam Hamilton intervenes to see that the twins are taken care of. He helps select their names after he, Adam and Adam’s Chinese servant, Lee, discuss the account of Cain and Abel.

The twins, Aron and Caleb, grow to manhood. Aron is everyone’s favorite, Caleb the overlooked boy yearning for his father’s love. The story of Cain and Abel is repeated again in their lives, but with a happier ending. Lee has studied the Biblical account and learned that people can turn from sin if they choose.

East of Eden starts slowly, but gathers momentum as Steinbeck begins to weave the lives of Adam, Sam and Cathy together. When the book was published, readers might have found Cathy’s sordid story unsettling. Today’s readers, I fear, have read far worse in the daily paper. They are more likely to be upset by Steinbeck’s treatment of the Bible as a true account worthy of study.

East of Eden
John Steinbeck
The Viking Press, 1952
1952 Bestseller #2
My Grade: B+
Photo credit: “Beans” uploaded by edu at
© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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