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...
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.... 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.
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.
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