John Steinbeck's East of Eden - Biblical Symbols and Symbolism Essay example

John Steinbeck's East of Eden - Biblical Symbols and Symbolism Essay example

Length: 1254 words (3.6 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Strong Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Biblical Symbolism in East of Eden

 
Throughout the novel East of Eden, Steinbeck uses many biblical references to illustrate clearly the conflict between the opposing forces of good and evil. Much of the plot of East of Eden is centered upon the two sets of brothers representing Cain and Abel.  Both pairs are similar to Cain and Abel in the way they go about winning their fathers’ favors.  All four give gifts to their fathers, and the fathers dismiss the gifts of Charles and Caleb, the Cain representations (Marks, Jay Lester. p.121).  Caleb and Charles Trask are obviously the more malignant brothers.  They are also the more loving towards their father.  Steinbeck’s purpose in this is to illustrate the need of the Cain character in the story.  Abel, Adam and Aron, is the opposite of his brother and naturally good and pure.  The purpose of Adam and Aron in East of Eden is to clarify the belief that purity must know wickedness (Marks, Jay Lester. p.122).  Steinbeck illustrates the need for both good and bad with the actions and beliefs of these supposed “good” characters.  The representations of Abel, Adam and Aron are both described as unloving.  Adam has not treated his children fairly and his treatment is caused by his innate goodness.  Aron grows as an ignorant selfish person because he is naturally good (Fonterose, Joseph.  p. 3382).   Steinbeck uses Cain to illustrate the choice man has.  In the case of Charles, Cain dies an unhappy man who did not live a worthwhile life, Caleb on the other hand, chose to realize his dark past, but chose to continue living his life with hope (Marks, Jay Lester.  p. 122-123). 

            In Steinbeck’s East of Eden he is constantly using single characters to illustrate many differen...


... middle of paper ...


....  Because of man’s evil heritage, being descendent of Cain, he is naturally forgiven for any breach in purity (Levant, Howard. p. 244). 

      Steinbeck’s references and allusions to the bible are very obvious.  Although they are most apparent when taking the story of Genesis: 4 into consideration, the more subtle devices are equally as useful to Steinbeck to prove his point.  His beliefs of the relationship between good and evil are easily understood with the allusions that are exercised. 

Works Cited

Fontenrose, Joseph. John Steinbeck: An Introduction and Interpretation. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1963.

Levant, Howard. The Novels of John Steinbeck: A Critical Study. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 1974.

Marks, Lester Jay. Thematic Design in the Novels of John Steinbeck. The Hague: Mouton, 1969.

Steinbeck, John. East of Eden. New York: Viking, 1952.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay about Biblical Symbols and Symbolism in John Steinbeck's East of Eden

- Biblical Symbolism in East of Eden John Steinbeck includes more of the tale of Genesis: 4 than is actually told in the bible. The basis of this is a Jewish story involving twin sisters of both Cain and Abel. The two disputed over Abel’s twin whom Abel was to marry. Cain murdered Abel and wed the twin sister of his brother (Fonterose, Joseph. p.3380). The story differs also in that it is Abel who leaves his home instead of Cain. Abel found his Eden, represented by Salinas Valley, but lost it after fathering a second generation very similar to the first, Caleb representing Cain and Aron representing Abel (Fonterose, Joseph....   [tags: East Eden Essays]

Free Essays
692 words (2 pages)

Essay on East of Eden, by John Steinbeck: The Events After the Fall of Adam

- “I believe there are monsters born in the world . . . misshapen and horrible . . . accidents and no one’s fault . . . punishments for concealed sins . . . [their] face and body may be perfect . . . ” but they are the product of “a twisted gene or a malformed egg . . . ” (71). Literature, throughout history, has conveyed a plethora of themes, ranging from the struggle to understand divine intervention, to adversity, to the dramatization of life and death. One of the most prestigious and conventional of these themes is the conflict betwixt good and evil....   [tags: Cain and Abel, Adam and Eve]

Strong Essays
1225 words (3.5 pages)

Analysis Of John Steinbeck 's Successes And Failures Essay

- Rebecca Prater Strazulla March 21, 2016 Research Essay: John Steinbeck’s Successes and Failures If you are the type of author who likes to know the material first hand and are not content just to narrate a story which has no basis in fact, then you have something in common with John Steinbeck. In the words of the renowned novelist, "The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true" (Steinbeck)....   [tags: John Steinbeck, Great Depression, Of Mice and Men]

Strong Essays
1279 words (3.7 pages)

Brief Biography of John Steinbeck Essay

- Brief Biography of John Steinbeck John Steinbeck lead a life filled with words, from his award winning novels to the hundreds letters he wrote to friends during his career. He was born in Salinas, California on February 27, 1902, and lived there for the first sixteen years of his life until he graduated from Salinas High School in 1918. He took classes at Stanford, but spent more of his college years working to pay tuition than then he spent in the classroom. 1924 brought his first publication, two short stories in the Standford Spectator, but in 1925 he left his schooling and went to New York for a time....   [tags: John Steinbeck Writers American Literature Essays]

Strong Essays
3583 words (10.2 pages)

Timshel and Three Characters in John Steinbeck's 'East of Eden' Essay

- The biblical story of Cain and Abel has been written in more than one way. The King James version of the Bible states that when God speaks to Cain after he had murdered his brother Abel, God said, "Thou shalt" overcome sin. In the standard American version of the Bible, God says "Do thou" which means Cain will certainly overcome sin. The Hebrew word 'timshel' means 'thou mayest' which is arguably the most important two words in John Steinbeck's novel East of Eden. These two words change the meaning of what God said completely....   [tags: John Steinbeck, East of Eden, ]

Strong Essays
1599 words (4.6 pages)

The Identity of Cathy in "East of Eden" Essay

- East of Eden is a story that is based on the biblical stories of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel. Like the story of Adam and Eve, East of Eden has characters that embody Adam and Eve to an extent. While the story of Adam and Eve tells about the beginning of man, how we came to be on this earth, and why we have original sin, East of Eden uses Adam Trask and Cathy Ames as the beginning of a complex and conflicting story of good vs. evil. Adam Trask is presumed to be Adam, good natured and goodhearted, while Cathy is presumed to be Eve....   [tags: East of Eden, characters, Steinbeck, ]

Strong Essays
584 words (1.7 pages)

Essay about John Steinbeck's East of Eden - Religious References

- Religious References in East of Eden Religion constantly appears throughout Steinbeck's East of Eden. Among these religious appearances are the similarities between the Cain and Abel story and the characters, the Hebrew word timshel, and the presence of God/Fate in the novel. First, East of Eden is a reenactment of the Cain and Abel tale. Many similarities are seen between the two. The title East of Eden comes from the biblical tale when " 'Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden' " (Steinbeck 352)....   [tags: East Eden Essays]

Free Essays
606 words (1.7 pages)

John Steinbeck's East of Eden - A Study in Human Development Essay

- East of Eden: A study in human development         The characteristics of people are formed by multiple factors. In many situations, children are raised under similar conditions, however, their later characteristics and life choices are very different. In the book, East of Eden, author John Steinbeck explores the development of humans, from childhood, to adulthood, and eventually, to death. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck, is a genealogical novel about the lives of the Trasks, particularly the main character in the book, Adam Trask....   [tags: East Eden Essays]

Strong Essays
1445 words (4.1 pages)

John Steinbeck's East of Eden - The Gift of Free Will Essay

- East of Eden - The Gift of Free Will An excellent benefit of choosing to major in English is that it has allowed me four years to dig deeply into my love of the written word. This involves looking beyond the surface of literature and studying its effects in the course of my everyday life. Some books are easy to read quickly, enjoy, and forget, but others exert an influence that is not easily discarded or forgotten. In my mental library, the classic American novel East of Eden, by John Steinbeck, falls into this category....   [tags: East Eden Essays]

Free Essays
987 words (2.8 pages)

East of Eden Essay: Steinbeck vs. Christ

- East of Eden: Steinbeck vs. Christ In the novel, East of Eden, John Steinbeck proposes the idea that man has much more control over his own destiny than many chose to believe-a conclusion reached from Steinbeck's own interpretation of the story of Cain and Able wherein God neither instructs Cain to master the sin which is crouching at his door, nor predicts that Cain will master it, but rather gives Cain the ability to choose. Taking the text out of context, Steinbeck uses it to convey the message that a man's destiny is up to himself and that the ability to choose to do what is right and wrong is as much a curse as it is a blessing....   [tags: East Eden Essays]

Free Essays
908 words (2.6 pages)