Sarah
Sarah asked:

Does East of Eden want to put evilness/sinfulness in a sympathetic light?

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Car6l Snyder I don't believe the story is meant to sympathize with sin at all only to bring a greater understanding to the innocence and good intentions that often spawn sin. I also don't believe that the book is making any sort of statement as to who can and cannot judge, only that we have been granted the great and awful task of making all of our own judgement calls. All the mistakes and triumphs we create are our own.
Alex Criscolo I'd have to say no, East of Eden does not strive to sympathize evil/sin, and here's why. We are offered a thorough variety of characters and personalities, some of which may be considered good, others may be considered bad, while several fall in the grey area that we all tend to believe humanity lies--both good and bad. I have seen answers that talk about how no one in the novel is truly good or truly bad, which is a false statement. It was a goal of Steinbeck's to create two distinct and concrete characters, one thoroughly good, and the other, pure evil. Samuel Hamilton was written flawlessly (take that as literal as you please), while Cathy Ames was written harshly, unforgivingly evil, and downright cruel. Just as Samuel carries himself in the same godly manner we are introduced to him as throughout the book, Cathy never redeems herself, nor was she given any grounds for which she could be understood or analyzed. As a matter of fact, it is plainly written out for us that she would NOT be understood. Therefore, since we cannot justify her evilness, we cannot sympathize it, either.

Now, there are a number of different characters that I could use as an example for the human grey area of "good and bad." Because he is the first example that pops into my head, we will go ahead with Cal. Despite being raised alongside Aron, his twin brother who seems to take quite a bit from his dad, and even quite a bit more from Lee, Cal continuously shows flashes of hatred, anger, and resentment, which clearly resemble the personality of his mother. However, when it comes to his father's gift, the intentions are there and they are good, although "intentions are never enough" (just a little Steinbeck quote from The Winter of Our Discontent). Cal is not a bad person, given that he has barely lived enough of his life to establish himself as one. He is not pure evil, like his mother, but he is also strikingly different from Aron and his father. In a way , it is nearly impossible to NOT sympathize for the boy as he learns of his mother's true identity, and as he continously faces rejection from the one man who he seeks out to impress the most. And from this frustration, we do see Cal make irresponsible, immature, and even hateful decisions toward the end of the novel, and because of the sympathy that his situation (and excellently written emotional turmoil) creates, it becomes easy to make excuses for him. Which brings me to my overall point.

We all interpret novels differently. What I have taken away from this book could be completely different than what you may have taken away from it. However, I thought there was a reoccurring theme, not "good vs. bad" and not "can someone be all bad," but the concept that, despite being a sum of our surroundings, our ancestry, and our upbringing, there is a dark corner in most of our hearts that we develop ourselves, that comes from no one, that we must find the strength to silence. Whether you sympathize with Cathy's twisted encounter with Mr. Edwards or Cal's inability to act rationally in moments of heightened frustration, the book does not teach us to justify, sympathize, or excuse evilness. Rather, it teaches us that evilness is around us, and for some of us, it might be inside of us, and that we have the ultimate decision on what we do with it.
Joy Layton I don't think it's as simple as that. Steinbeck portrays his characters as human, full of glorious and messy complexity. No one in the novel, or in real life, is solely good or evil which makes the novel so poignant. East of Eden resonates with readers because they can see themselves in the characters, whether they want to or not. So I don't think Steinbeck portrays good vs. evil in a sympathetic light, I think he portrays humanity in a sympathetic light.
Kohl Hagee I don't think Steinbeck wrote this book to have us sympathize for sin, but to identify that an evil lies within every human being. It is this dark part of us that we must strive to overcome. We must wage war with our fallen beings to eventually conquer it through a certain greatness-- as described in the book.
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Al Maki I think it's more along the line of "love the sinner, hate the sin." For me the core of the book is that if we are all sinners and we want to have love in our lives then we have to forgive those we love.
Tania I don't think it does. In my opinion Steinbeck says that we all have evilness in ourselves and it's quite normal. But one should understand it's nature to overcome it.
Charles Shepherd I believe it doesn't, I think it considers evilness/sinfulness as a diverse and dynamic thing and with the subject 'timshel' East of Eden is saying that it's not a person's or book's place to judge evilness/sinfulness only God's.
Kevin Burke I think the overarching message of the novel - that sin is not inevitable but rather of our own choosing - suggests the opposite, which is that there really is no excuse for sin since it is ultimately borne of our judgment.
River No, I think there was a lot to be drawn from the book. But I found one theme which said that building a story about someone, based on what could be evil or sinful lacks an open mind and will lead to a skewed perception of what may be a redeemable man or woman.
Michael 'sinfulness' is a religious invention. It actually doesn't exist
Luz I don’t believe so. What a truly understood is that people are not who they say they are. And life can change your way of acting and thinking.
Like we are good and bad. And which side of you developes evilness ot godness.
Katie Parks I think there is not any intention to sympathize sin throughout this novel. I think it is intended to shed light upon the actions people take because of the situations they are in or the adversity they are facing mentally and physically. It shows the detail of many different situations and the reasons behind the actions taken but never makes a move to sympathize with sin and evilness.
Brandon No. We are all descendants of Cain, and therefore all marked with sin, but we are also given the choice (" timshel") to either triumph over or succumb to it.
Hari Brandl It's been a long time since I read this, but if I remember accurately, the characters as portrayed are not good or evil, rather merely human and thus flawed. If anything, I feel Steinbeck shows the evil of religiosity, whether he meant to or not.
Scott Hayden No, look at the consequences smashing the characters who committed evil. They serve as warnings against sin.
Sa Schmidt No, I don't think that the story does want to put evilness/sinfulness in a sympathetic light. And the boy who wants acceptance from his Father is not evil. This is his Father's perception only for letting religion get in the way of business and profit and his short sightedness in about everything, including the goodness/badness in his wife who left the situation.
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