Overview of East of Eden by John Steinbeck

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John Steinbeck used his childhood growing up in the Salinas Valley as the backdrop to his 1952 novel, East of Eden. Similar to the Garden of Eden, the Salinas Valley is lush and fertile in some places like the Trask ranch while other places are dry and barren like the Hamilton’s land. Steinbeck “wrote the story of good and evil, embracing love and hate, demonstrating their inseparability” (Krávlová 51). He creates an allegory for the story of Cain and Abel that follow three generations who, despite the fate given them, choose their own destiny. In spite of original sin, the recurring theme of timshel destroys the determinism of the Cain and Abel allegory in John Steinbeck’s novel, East of Eden.
The Hebrew word, timshel, plays a pivotal role in the primary theme of overcoming evil for good. Lee argues, “[i] t might be the most important word in the world” (301). It is the sole thing that gives the characters hope to turn out decent, despite all the terrible things they do. Timshel is the beginning and the end of this story.
“Steinbeck presents characters in pairs -- Adam and Charles, Aron and Caleb, Abra and Cathy -- using first initials to identify clearly which characters are inherently good and which must struggle to overcome the seeds of evil within them” (Strecker).
Charles and Adam Trask are first presented in Part One of the novel. They are the initial pair Steinbeck uses to present the Cain and Abel allegory. Charles (Cain) is a “destructive machine that chops down anything standing in his way” (44). Adam (Abel) is naturally kind and well liked by everyone, especially their father. Adam’s tragic flaw is that he trusts too easily and is not able to see people for who they truly are. Adam is “very real and believable but h...

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Heavilin, Barbara A. “Steinbeck’s Exploration of Good and Evil: Structure and Thematic Unity in East of Eden.” Rpt. in Novels for Students. Ed. Jennifer Smith. Vol. 19. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 40 Vols. 145-150. Print.
Králová, Eva. “Inseparability of Good and Evil as a Challenge in Steinbeck’s East of Eden.” University Review 7.2 (2013): 51-57. EMSCO. Web. 4 Feb. 2014.
McDaniel, Barbara. “Alienation in East of Eden: The ‘Chart of the Soul’.” Rpt. in Novels for Students. Ed. Jennifer Smith. Vol. 19. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 40 Vols. 151-155. Print.
Steinbeck, John. East of Eden. New York: New York, 1952. Print.
Strecker, Geralyn. “East of Eden.” Masterplots, Fourth Edition (2010): 1-4. Literary Reference Center. Web. 3 Feb. 2014.

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