And my love for Steinbeck grows! What a whirlwind of a book, vast and episodic yet focused and detailed. Set, mainly, in the ever changing hills of Salinas valley East of Eden is a novel that keeps your brain awake the entire time you read. In East of Eden Steinbeck plays out the age old battle, good vs. evil, over and over through the life of Adam Trask starting from his birth. Steinbeck deals with the fight of good vs. evil in the world in general and also the fight between good and bad that is within each individual person.
The battle is best represented in Adams son Cal. He observes the battles between light and dark in the world around him but has a difficult time facing them within himself. He feels stuck in the shadow of his brothers purity and perfection. Cal struggles with the idea that if you are bad you are all the way bad and his love for his brother blinds him to Aron’s shortcomings. Though it is not till the end of the book that Cal has a revelation and realizes that no one is purely good and he must learn this.
I have two quotes from this book that I wanted to share with you the first being:
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect you can be good.”
I will let you all read the book to find out the context of this quote but I think standing alone this quote says a lot about pressure that can be put on people. How people deal with being held up to a standard of perfection when there is not a single person on this earth that is perfect. Reading this quote reminds me that once I stop pressuring myself to be perfect at every aspect of my life, I can be good.
The second quote is:
“We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal.”
I love this quote for its final line “virtue is immortal”. It makes one feel as though even with the constant battle of good and evil going on inside of ourselves and in the world virtue will always prevail because it is immortal.
I was so excited to read this book as I had read reviews and heard that it was one of Steinbeck’s best. And now I cannot wait to re-read it and fill the margins with notes and comments, and to highlight all of my favorite quotes. This book is amazing to read for fun but was for me a great learning experience. I feel that by focusing on how the book was written as I read I was able to learn more and more about Steinbeck’s writing style.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is willing to take it on. It’s definitely a commitment as it is quite long, but I think if you do read it you will not be disappointed.