East of Eiden

John Steinback was absolutely brilliant with his writing, East of Eden. It is by far one of the best books I have ever read.

“Might it not be that in the dark pools of some men the evil grows strong enough to wriggle over the fence and swim free? Would not such a man be our monster, and are we not related to him in our hidden water? It would be absurd if we did not understand both angels and devils.” (133) This is possibly my favorite quote of the whole book. Steinbeck had a beautiful sense of poetry in these words, relating to those that people call ‘monsters’. He felt we could relate to everyone in some type of way, never being able to completely judge someone for something. It may not be their fault, but rather something that could be hiding in the depths of everyone.

In Chapter 4, the two brothers grew closer than they ever had been before by writing each other their letters. As children, Charles had always been somewhat of a bully towards Adam. They were very close at times, confiding in each other everything, Charles often being protective over Adam, taking the blame for some things and receiving the punishment from their father. He did this because he felt sorry for Adam for being so skinny, and easy to step on. Behind the facade, however, Charles was extremely jealous of the bond between Cyrus and Adam. Even though Cyrus was tougher on Adam than he was on Charles, Charles knew there was something between them that he could only wish his father and himself had. Cyrus opened up to Adam much more than he did Charles. Therefore, he would sometimes try and show Adam his dominance by beating him, a couple times near death with his spur of the moment anger. This actually distanced him and Cyrus more than anything, and bonded Adam closer with their father. As Adam reluctantly entered the army, Charles began to miss him. Adam had never wanted to join the army, but with this pushing of Cyrus he did, leaving Charles, yet again, feeling unloved and wishing he was Adam. Their distance made everything easier for Charles, making their relationship much stronger than before. This is because Charles could never properly express his feelings, whereas he was free to be himself with his writing, not having to show his dominance around Adam.  I also find it easier to express myself on paper. I feel like I can get everything out without stumbling and choking on my own words, especially if I’m angry or nervous, as do many other people. I find that writers, particularly poets, are often ones to express how they feel on paper. This just goes to show that the saying “the pen is mightier than the sword” is often times very true. On page 36, it states, “He set down his loneliness and put his perplexities, and put on paper many things he did not know about himself. During the time Adam was away he knew his brother better than ever before or afterward.” (text to self, text to world)

Eventually, Adam and Charles’ closeness drifted and they seldom wrote each other. They were so distanced that when Adam was released from the military, he refused to go home. He had no fond memories there and he felt no need to go home. I felt sympathetic towards Charles, who was practically drowning in his loneliness. He was on the ranch, completely alone, every single day. His own father wouldn’t even visit him. Adam met up with Cyrus after his first release from the army. Cyrus was extremely proud of Adam and all of the dedication he had toward the army. I believe Adam was only dedicated to the army so he wouldn’t have to go home and face Cyrus and Charles. He also felt obligated because of the pressures his father put on him all throughout his childhood. When Adam reenlisted, he had only minor duties, such as polishing metal and leather. “Adam spent his next five years doing the things an army uses to keep its men from going insane-engless polishing of metal and leather, parade and drill and escort, ceremony of bugle and flag, a ballet of business for men who aren’t doing anything.” (55) When Adam was released from the army, he still didn’t want to go home. It had been 10 years since he had seen Charles and 5 since he had seen his father. Shortly after he was released the second time, he wandered from town to town, sometimes with other men, other times alone. “Adam waited out the winter, wandering up the river to Sacramento, ranging in the valley of the San Joaquin, and when the spring came Adam had no money. He rolled a blanket and started slowly eastward, sometimes walking and sometimes with groups of men on the rods under slow-moving freight cars.” (55) This nomadic lifestyle reminded me of The Red Badge of Courage. Henry would move from place to place, with his comrades, or he wandered the forest alone as well. Before Adam had returned home, he sent a telegram asking Charles for a hundred dollars. Charles was extremely lonely and he hadn’t heard from Adam for an extended amount of time, so he immediately agreed to pay to write him back. Charles had an idea: “I’ll say-say, how do I know it’s Adam? What’s to stop anybody from collecting it?”, to which the operator replied, “Way we go about it, you give me a question couldn’t nobody else know the answer. So I send both the question and the answer.” (55) This also reminded me of The Red Badge of Courage because particularly during war times, telegrams are often intercepted and received from enemies, causing them to use morse code.  Thieves also took money from unknowing people by feigning to be somebody else. The hundred dollars saved Adam’s life and he returned home shortly after. (text to text, text to world)

A passage in Chapter 7 intrigued me. Cyrus had just died, leaving Charles and Adam with an equal, and very large, sum of money. Charles had loved Cyrus very deeply, whereas Adam disliked their father. As Charles was going over Cyrus’ war papers, he discovers that Cyrus lied about a majority of the battles he had been in. “He wasn’t at Gettysburg. He wasn’t at any goddam battle in the whole war. he was hit in a skirmish. Everything he told was lies.”(68) Charles began to think that his father stole the money that was going to Adam and himself. Adam doesn’t believe he stole the money, leaving Charles stumped as to why he even has faith in their father, knowing that Adam didn’t love Cyrus as Charles had. Adam compares their view of their father to God. “Let me tell you. The proofs that God does not exist are very strong, but in lots of people they are not as strong as the feeling that He does.” (70) He then goes on to explain:

“Maybe if I had loved him I would have been jealous of him. You were. Maybe-maybe love makes you suspicious and doubting. Is it true that when you love a woman you are never sure-never sure of her because you aren’t sure of yourself? I can see it pretty clearly. I can see how you loved him and what it did to you. i did not love him. Maybe he loved me. he tested me and hurt e and punished me and finally he sent me out like a sacrifice, maybe to make up for something. But he did not love you, and so he had faith in you. Maybe-why, maybe it’s a kind of reverse.” (70)

Adam goes into the depths of reverse psychology, a common method used today, usually by psychologists, to manipulate people or explain their thinking. Adam feel she doesn’t have to doubt his father because he didn’t love him; it’s almost an unbiased view towards Cyrus; that’s a view that Charles didn’t have. He compares the love to that of a woman, commenting on how difficult, almost impossible, it is to trust her. I also noticed that Adam’s fear of his brother that he had when he was younger had abandoned him, making it possible for him to speak his mind. “Adam knew that his brother was no longer dangerous.There was no jealousy to drive him.” (70)  (text to itself, text to world)

After the men are contemplating the origin of their newfound wealth, the story moves to Cathy. From the beginning, Cathy had been different than the rest. It drew people towards her, giving her the ability to manipulate them, similar to a persuasive speaker. Cathy was curious as to what she could do with her power. She never quite felt emotion herself. When she was first introduced, I found that she never seemed sad, depressed, loving, or even angry. It was as if she had no emotions. She just seemed aware and even captivated by her controlling abilities. “Cathy learned when she was very young that sexuality with all its attendant yearnings and pains, jealousies and taboos, is the most disturbing impulse humans have.” This quote reminded me of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and it’s main theme: with love, comes pain. Since Cathy seems impermeable to love, she must feel the same with emotional pain. She offered two boys her body for a mere 5 cents each. Being caught by her mother, Cathy blamed the boys and they got sent to a behavior correctional facility. No one ever suspected Cathy to be lying, just the boys. Her father, being a quiet man, always suspected something off about his daughter, but never mentioning anything, out of guilt for having even thinking so about his own child. Cathy’s manipulation is very potent later in the book with Adam. (text to itself, text to text)

It is almost impossible to have two strong men living together, under any circumstance, without there being dominance issues. With Adam and Charles living in the same house, they are having those issues. They have their differences, but try not to fight, as Charles exemplifies by saying, “I don’t want trouble.” (102) This is a profound difference from when they were children. Charles would find any excuse possible to beat Adam, out of pure jealous. Now, having nothing to be jealous of, he seems to be the peaceful one of the two. Charles, having been living on the farm his entire life, didn’t want to go anywhere else. He was content where he was, with his routined lifestyle. Adam, on the other hand, wanted to travel; he wanted to see the world. He does not see the need of working when they have such a large inheritance sum. “Charles, we could go to Egypt and walk around the Sphinx.”, to which Charles retorts, “We could stay right here and make some good use of our money.” (110) I find myself similar to Adam in that sense, but also relating to Charles. I would never want to live a nomadic lifestyle, such as Adam does but I would like to travel and see the world. They continue to snap at each other, until Adam decides to leave for 8 months. (text to self, text to itself)

When Adam and Charles were children, Adam felt a great fear of Charles. Charles, having almost beaten him to death, had an angry side that was extremely dangerous. It was driven from jealousy because Cyrus preferred Adam any day. On Cyrus’s birthday, Charles had bought him a pocket knife. Adam bought him a puppy. The pocketknife was never seen of again, but the puppy was Cyrus’s best friend. The jealousy drove Charles to beating Adam until the point of death, coming back after him with a hatchet. I believe this is why Cyrus preferred Adam. He didn’t see the monster in him that he saw in Charles. Cyrus believed that if he were to release Charles into the army, it would unleash the killer inside of him, changing him completely. Cyrus had always suspected that Charles would make a mess of his life and wind up in jail or prison. When Adam comes back the second time, he was explaining to Charles why he needed the hundred dollars in the telegram; he told him about his jail time. He had joined a gang during his nomadic period. “And I never told. Maybe I was ashamed. I was a prisoner, Charles, I broke jail-I escaped.” (108) Charles felt proud of his brother, he even found it humorous, as did I. It was ironic, because that was the future predicted for Charles, not Adam. (text to itself)

Throughout the book, Steinbeck is switching which character’s story to tell every few chapters. It was all from his perspective, as illustrated when he uses the word “I”. I noticed a similar pattern with some Stephen King books, such as The Talisman. Another example would be Lakeside Cottage by Debbie Danielle Steele also has a similar technique in a few of her books. It kept the reader interested in what was happening for both characters. Eventually, their lives almost always cross paths somehow. (text to text)

In the beginning, I highly detested Charles for being so mean to Adam when they were younger. But as the book went on, I began to realize he was the character I could relate to the most. Like him, I would rather live a routined life and not jump into things so quickly. I also had high respect for his perceptive level when he met Cathy. He wasn’t under her influence like everyone, except her father, had been. I didn’t like the way Adam had jumped straight into marriage, although I did appreciate his devotion to his children. Charles was against Cathy the whole time, seeing what he saw in himself when he was younger. (text to self)

Overall, this is by far one of my favorite books. This is something I would read a couple more times to capture all of the minute details without getting bored.

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