East of Eden | Book Review 3

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.

Written Wednesday

Driving Alone Early in the Morning

 

The frigid morning air has

Crept into my car, my frozen

Hands grip at the wheel.

 

Black coffee slides down

My throat, bitter it

Leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

 

Fog blocks my path

So thick I could inhale it

And puff it back out in rings.

 

Early morning

Light cuts through

 

The trees to my left

Bathing the world

 

In gold.

-Hanna Caroline

Written Wednesdays

I’m Like This Mug.

Sitting alone at a small booth of a coffee shop, I sip black coffee. Its one of those places where they serve real food, but everyone who knows it just goes there to get coffee. It’s not even good coffee but people here still drink it. I was never sure why. I take another sip trying to taste anything good in the coffee. No, its like gas station coffee. The mug the waitress gave me is chipped. Smooth and rounded all along the edge until you get to the thumb sized hollow where a piece of the mug had been chipped off. I think about the missing piece of ceramic. Where did it go? Where is it now? How did it break off? I run my finger along the place where the piece used to be. Its dull, its been missing for a while so the mug doesn’t even remember it was there. Its forgotten so now it lives like its never even been broken. And when people come and sip from the mug it doesn’t use it’s empty spot to cut them the way it did when it first broke.

I sip again, this time I turn the cup so the chip is opposite me and when I tilt the cup to pour the coffee in my mouth I can watch the little hollow. I stare that little empty spot down watching it. Not sure if I am waiting for something to happen, but I watch it as my cup moves up and down, as I drink my coffee.

A song I used to know starts to play out of the cheap sound system of the coffee shop. Its a happy song, but it makes me sad. I look up as if the person I used to listen to that song with might be sitting across from me, putting more sugar than he needs in his coffee, grinning, and humming along to the song. But he’s not, he wouldn’t be, he couldn’t be.

“I’m chipped” I think turning my attention back to the mug. I lost a piece and its left a hollow spot in me. I don’t know if I can ever fill that empty place. I’m chipped. I’m not dull the way the mug is, not yet, I can still cut people. When they put their finger on that empty place, the place where the piece used to go, they get hurt. When they put their lips to my edge I cut them and they bleed.

I could learn from this mug. I could learn how to be dull so that people won’t get hurt by me. “How did you do it?” I think at the mug. “How did you forget you were missing a piece?”

I wish someone would come along and turn me, avoiding the sharp empty place. Drinking from me knowing I could cut them, but turning the sharp edge away from themselves. Give me the time I need to forget the missing piece and heal the empty spot. Give me time to become dull on my own.

I gulp my coffee until the cup is empty, its cold now, and for a moment I hold the cup in my two hands. “I’m like this mug.” I say quietly and to myself. Then I take the mug to the waitress counting her tips at the counter. “This is broken” I say as I set it down on the counter and walk out.

–Hanna Caroline