Katharine's Reviews > East of Eden

East of Eden by John Steinbeck
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Mar 18, 2011

really liked it
Read from February 04 to March 18, 2011 — I own a copy , read count: 1

I liked East of Eden. I was surprised by the fact that some of the commentary in it seemed as if it could have been written last week.

The reason I'm giving it four stars rather than five is because it had two aspects that bugged me. Characters that exist almost solely to be the voice of the author irk me and always have (I remember vividly my first encounter with this in Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter). I also found Abra's character a little flat. They kept praising her as a good person, but I didn't really see anything particularly virtuous about her. Also, there is nothing subtle at all about the symbolism, and Steinbeck makes no apologies for that. As a professor friend of mine said, he feels this book is a good introduction to symbolism for those who've never studied it before, because it's almost impossible to miss.

Despite those minor drawbacks, I enjoyed the novel. It's well worth reading if only to acquaint oneself with a classic from one of America's most noted authors. I found Chapter 46 especially relevant: although it has little to do with the book's overall themes, Steinbeck's German could easily be our Muslim today. East of Eden was published in 1952, almost 60 years ago at the time of this writing, and, depressingly, it seems we haven't changed a bit in certain ways. The old adage about those who cannot remember the past being condemned to repeat it comes to mind.

I need a little more time to ruminate and to let it sink in before I make any firm conclusions.

NOTE: My review does not contain spoilers, but there may be little bits in the comments. Just giving fair warning.
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Reading Progress

02/04/2011 page 59
10.0% 2 comments
02/21/2011 page 273
45.0% "Chapter 22 may be the most important chapter I've read in the book thus far, in terms of philosophies and perspectives on the Cain and Abel story and what it means in terms of collective consciousness."
03/03/2011 page 396
65.0% "Dessie has just sold her house and dress making business and moved back in with her brother, Tom, at this point."
03/05/2011 page 411
68.0% "Potential spoiler alert: The character I found most interesting in this book died at the end of Part III. :( About to start Part IV."
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Suzanne I fell so in love with Steinbeck back when I read this book that I'm sure I willingly ignored its flaws (as one does when one falls in love, right?). I should reread it with old married eyes one of these days. :)

In any case, I'm glad you enjoyed it overall!

Katharine I just updated my review, increasing to four stars instead of three because I felt like I'd perhaps let Part IV overly impact my perception of the book as a whole. It definitely contains some valuable insights. I particularly liked this bit from Chapter 51, where Lee breaks it down for Cal:

“And are you taking pleasure from this whipping you’re giving yourself? Are you enjoying your despair?”


“You’re pretty full of yourself. You’re marveling at the tragic spectacle of Caleb Trask—Caleb the magnificent, the unique. Caleb whose suffering should have its Homer. Did you ever think of yourself as a snot-nose kid—mean sometimes, incredibly generous sometimes? Dirty in your habits, and curiously pure in your mind. Maybe you have a little more energy than most, just energy, but outside of that you’re very like all the other snot-nose kids. Are you trying to attract dignity and tragedy to yourself because your mother was a whore? And if anything should have happened to your brother, will you be able to sneak for yourself the eminence of being a murderer, snot-nose?”

I may have another update after my book club discusses it on 3/31.

Thank you for chatting about it with me! I appreciate it. :)

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