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East of Eden
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This is the discussion thread for those members who wish to discuss the novel East of Eden by John Steinbeck without fear of posting spoilers.

Declan. :)


Cathleen | 2409 comments Hi Allan, I just finished it last night, and I thought this book was fantastic. I'm glad I read it because I hadn't been a huge Steinbeck fan. I had read other novels of his (years and years ago) and they never quite clicked with me. Once I got into this novel, I had a hard time putting it down.

I wasn't surprised by Aron's death, either, but I was surprised at how he died. I expected it to be more on stage, rather than off stage--if that makes sense. That's one of the aspects of this novel that intrigued me; the events that I would typically expect to have been highlighted and included as a central dramatic element of the story often never made it onto the actual pages. Those writing decisions fascinated me. We never "see" when Aron meets Cathy, but we hear about it through others. Maybe it would have been too over the top? Or maybe because we saw the scene with Cal and Cathy, Steinbeck thought it would be redundant to include it again. But it was an interesting choice for me, as a reader, and those kinds of decisions, throughout, that Steinbeck made definitely kept me fully engaged in the novel.

I was fascinated by a number of the characters. Cathy/Kate was intriguing because near the end, she did begin to show what appeared like a tiny bit of human emotion. I couldn't figure her out. Why did she start attending church? It didn't appear that she developed any conscience, but she did reveal a deep loneliness. She didn't care for her sons, apparently at all (!), yet she seemed fascinated by Aron's beauty and his angelic look in the church. Was she drawn to something in him or was it more narcissism on her part?

Lee was one of my favorite characters, as well.. He was the glue that held all of the different family members together. And his switch from pidgin English to standard English must have been something to hear on audiotape. Talk about code-switching!

A minor point. Do you think we are to assume that the reason Abra's father has taken ill was because Kate had photos of him?

There's so much to talk about in this novel. Those are just a few of the things rolling around in my head now. :)


Cathleen | 2409 comments Allan wrote: "Hi Cathleen-you've made some great points in your post!

I completely see where you're coming from with the idea of main events in the novel happening offstage. I think Aron's reaction to seeing h..."


Hi Allan--I think we're always supposed to wonder if Charles was actually Cal and Aron's father. Steinbeck makes enough references to how Cal resembed Charles; there's enough ambiguity there to keep us guessing. Speaking of Charles, he played such a major role in the beginning of the novel--and then completely disappeared. I always expected that Adam and Charles would somehow reconnect. His death was another thing that surprised me (I had a lot of surprises in this novel!).

Now that I've finished reading the novel, I'll check out the book guide, too. That's a good idea. I never like reading too many review or supplementary resources until I've read the book, but it will be fun to see what kinds of themes, questions that guide raises.

I know there were references to Abra's father stealing money. But I also wondered if one of the reasons he may have been so opposed to Abra seeing Aron was because of his own personal knowledge of Kate's place. It would really heighten the hypocrisy of his actions, wouldn't it?

I think one of the distinctions of this novel is that Steinbeck actually made me feel some sympathy for really flawed, even evil, characters like Cathy/Kate.

I'll be very curious to see what else you think and post later on. What did you make of the last lines of the novel?

Oh--one last thought. I also wonder about the narrative device used for the novel. The story is told by Olive's (?) son...but that was so subtle. The narrative voice only popped up every so often.

I should thank whoever nominated this novel. Declan must know :) I never would have read this left to my own devices, but I'm so glad I did.


message 4: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 28, 2013 04:55PM) (new)

There's certainly a hell of a lot to talk about having read the book and I'm not sure where to begin.

I liked how the relationship of the story to Genesis was through offerings made by the sons to their fathers and how the fathers' reactions caused the jealousy and tension between the brothers. I could only feel sorry Charles when as he told Adam about he'd scrimped and saved to buy Cyrus the pocket knife only to be outdone by Adam showing up with a puppy that cost him nothing. Similarly, Cal was outshone by Aron for simply attending college which he did for himself. I think parental expectations were important in the book, particularly a father's hope's for his sons. Tom Hamilton's failure to launch seemed to stem from Samuel's expectations and he seemed to suffer under their weight. His death was brutally tragic. I knew it was inevitable after Dessie's, and I found that all the more tragic because I knew exactly how Tom would respond.

I think Cathy was only Eve by default as Adam's wife and the boys mother. She didn't tempt Adam to commit any kind of unforgivable sin, although I suppose she did tempt Charles to betray his brother. But. the biblical references in this are a little all over the place, so I don't want to think about them too hard. The two references to the Mark of Cain are on Charles and Cathy. I understand that there's some overlap with brotherly betrayal but Charles marked himself by accident after a reconciliation with his brother was underway and long before he slept with Cathy, so that's a little confusing, and I can't see how a reference to 'Eve' wearing the mark serves any purpose.

About Abra's father, I didn't dwell too long on whether or not he stole the money to pay off Cathy. I though it served it's purpose as to point out his lack of virtue after spending a lot of time and effort defaming the Trasks to his daughter.

There where two aspects of the story that bothered me:

Lee's birth. I didn't know at first if I found it misandristic or racist but I eventually decided on the latter. A woman falls over with labour pains and the reaction of the men is to brutally, sexually assault her because they're men and they haven't seen a woman for a while? I really don't think that Steinbeck would have ever written that about white men. At least not American men.

Cal's and Abra's pairing. That came too far out of leftfield for me. I don't think you can just manufacture attraction out of thin air like that, based on nothing more than previous tensions from childhood.

There were more things I wanted to discuss, but I can't quite remember what they were. I'll jump back into the discussion later when they come to me.


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On the whole Steinbeck was very fair to minorities, and there was a major difference in his portrayal of Lee and the portrayal of the Chinese railroad workers. I can't see it as anything other than racist. Maybe that's not how Steinbeck intended it but I can't view it any other way. The Irish had a similar plight to the Chinese before arriving in America, but I doubt very much that Steinbeck would have painted them as violent gang rapists. I think it was just easier to get away with doing it to a culture whose values weren't as well known to the American public and it was therefore more believable to cast them as brutes.

You have to admit that when a pregnant woman goes into labour and needs help, it's a cold and inhuman bunch of monsters whose first impulse is seek sexual gratification, brutalising her in the process, rather than assisting her. Maybe Steinbeck didn't have a particular prejudice towards the Chinese, but there's no way in hell he would have portrayed white American or European men, of any nationality, like that. Even if he went out of his way to show a guilty conscience, afterwards.

Everything you said about Lee I agree with, totally. He was the glue that held the Trasks together and he was Father and Mother to the two boys. He was probably the most likeable character in the book, with some very stiff competition from Sam Hamilton. But Steinbeck made it clear from the beginning that Lee was an American, not Chinese.

There certainly were some unsavoury American characters but that's to be expected when you're dealing with a story that involves someone like Cathy Ames running a whorehouse. There were plenty of ordinary decent men and women to make up for this, such as the Hamiltons, the sheriff, his deputies, various doctors and regular townspeople.

Something I forget to mention when I made my first comment last night was an incident that related to the discussion about gripping writing. The scenes you both mentioned were very moving, but the one that got me right in the chest was the children's exchange with Mr. Fenchel. He sounds like a man who probably lived a mostly solitary life, but his rejection by the people of Salinas must have been all the more devastating because of it. He seemed so hopeful of a friendly response with his gut efning, and when John and Mary replied with hoch der Kaiser, I already knew he was going to cry. I've never read a better portrayal of such wretched loneliness, ever. That's why Steinbeck still gets five stars in spite of my problems with Lee's birth and Cal and Abra's pairing.


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People in general are flawed, but the men who attacked Lee's mother were animals. And if I am right about the fact the Steinbeck wouldn't/couldn't portray white men like that, it is racist, even though Steinbeck himself may not have borne a dislike or hatred towards the Chinese. If he saw them as capable of carrying out an atrocity that he deemed white men incapable of he is holding a view of racial or cultural superiority.

On the whole Steinbeck seemed to be quite liberal toward prostitution, but I can't see paying a willing participant to enact sordid fantasies as anywhere near the same league as the attack on Lee's mother.

(My apologies for taking up so much time with this one incident.)

I did wonder about Steinbeck's lineage, too, and I was surprised that he didn't use this himself to manufacture some hardship for his mother and father or the Hamiltons as a whole. It may have been that the Hamiltons' roots protected them from this to a degree.

What did you make of the connection to the Genesis connection in the story? Did I miss something, or is it inconsistently portrayed? Is Steinbeck just being free with the story or is he deliberately distancing himself from it enough to give himself a little freedom?

I tend towards the latter, but when there is so much reference material involved in a story I always wonder if I'm missing something.


message 7: by Susan (last edited Jun 29, 2013 08:31PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Susan | 4707 comments To me the story of East of Eden is the love of the land. It has been said that once they were expelled from Eden, they had to find a new one. Salinas was the new Eden. This story rings so true to me as my grandfather from Sweden came to Calif. to find his Eden and ended up in the Salad Bowl valley of Sacramento.
America is a country of immigrants. You rarely meet people who have long ties to the country. Almost everyone has some recent immigration history. Calif. has been the last place to explore and settle in. I, myself, am the first one in both of my families to have born in Calif. Land is incredibly important to Calif. We are settled by people who came to this country so they could own their own land. It is in our blood. My grandfather on my mother's side came west in a covered wagon so they could own their own land. To truly understand East of Eden, you must appreciate how important it is to a Californian to own land and their attachment to it. So for Steinbeck, Salinas was his new Eden. Trust me, I have to been to Salinas and it's not my idea of a perfect place but to each their own.
So, Calif. is a place where people kicked out of their Eden (Ireland, China, the Basque, whatever) have come to create their new Eden.
Now for Cathy being Eve. Many people don't realize there is a big puritanical group of religions here. We were, after all, established by the Puritans. Evangical Baptists and Catholics are very powerful in the Central Valley. I cite those as two religions as famously not very female friendly. Catholics tend to be the migrant workers and Baptists the white land owners, I have been to services recently where the preachers still say that menustration is the punishment of Eve's sin. I was at a wedding where this was actually preached. So while Declan has a wonderful view of Eve, it would not be out of place in that time and place for Steinbeck to have a harsher opinion of Eve, even unconciously, and model her after his wife.
Now as to the Chinese aspect of the story. The treatment of the Chinese in Calif. is one of the most sordid stories in our history. They were brought over to work on the railroads and treated as slaves. Although the Irish were not always treated well, they were first class citizens compared to the Chinese. Calif never had slavery but the Chinese were the closest thing to it. I think the Chinese characterization was perfectly acceptable to the people in the era that Steinbeck wrote. People would not be as shocked as if he named some other nationality. You have to remember this is not long after Calif rounded up the Japanese and put them in internment camps during WWII.
Over all, I found this story such an unique story of populating our state and it really is the story, to me, of establishing a new Eden.


message 8: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 29, 2013 09:06PM) (new)

I'm intrigued by the thought of people finding their new Eden. I think that certainly would be true of the Hamiltions as Sam seemed to hold a slight longing for Ireland, but he also seemed perfectly happy with his land near Salinas and was very reluctant to leave it. Then we have Adam Trask who couldn't wait to leave for CA. Surely leaving Eden for Nod and Earth was a punishment? Am I missing something about this? Who leaves paradise for something better?

I do believe that the Biblical Eve is unfairly portrayed as a villain but the other problem I had between Eve and Cathy was the fact that Cathy didn't deliberately tempt Adam in any way. He managed to do it all to himself. If Eve isn't Adam's temptress then Cathy isn't really Eve.

I take your comments on board about the Chinese in CA, Susan, but I need more convincing. You say that that the Irish were treated a first-class citizens by comparison, but I've read and seen hundreds of accounts of the early Irish in America that portray them as sub-human. If what you say is correct then I think that must have made it all the easier to portray the Chinese as brutes. If not out of a personal prejudice then out of a horses-for-courses attitude that allowed him use them in this way as to pander to a wider prejudice. Not only do I think he never would have written it about whites, I think the general reader wouldn't have stood for it. And if they would have, then it would been misandristic. I can't see a woman going into labour and men assaulting her with absolutely no chivalrous impulse to aide her.

I like that mention the Catholic Church as puritanical, Susan. I've said this before to many different people in Ireland and they fail to see it. They didn't just demonise women, though. There were generations of men who grew up with deeply ingrained sexual hang-ups and mental health problems because they were told that their sexual impulses were unnatural and sordid. I wonder if that's why Steinbeck used the circus, etc. in the story.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Allan wrote: "Whatever the debates, I think it's clear that everyone has really enjoyed the book, which is exactly what I suppose we want from a book group!"

I totally agree, but more than that, a great novel should raise discussion beyond the story and we've already talked about the history of land ownership, changing social mores, religious influences and racial prejudices. And we're only sixteen comments in. This really is a novel that keeps on giving.

This is probably my favourite nomination, so far. Thanks, Susan.


Susan | 4707 comments I agree with you, Declan, that the Irish were treated badly in the US but that happened mostly in the Eastern States. Until the railroad was put in, CA was really cut off from the rest of the US so their traditional biases weren't necessarily ours. For us, it was the Chinese who were treated badly not the Irish. Remember,also, CA wasn't really populated heavily until 1849 with the Gold Rush. We don't really have a long white history. It was mostly Mexicans and Native Americans who lived here before then. Even LA wasn't very populated for years afterwards. They had a real water problem so it wasn't that attractive.
As for leaving Nod as a punishment, it was and for many people leaving their homelands for a new country was a punishment. I have read many stories of heartbreak of the Irish leaving their homelands because the land couldn't support them. That is true for many nationalities. Again, I think the catch is CA is truly different from the East Coast. Only the hardiest and most adventurous left for CA. They were a different breed. It was hard to get here. You either travelled by wagon train through the Rockies and the Sierras or made the very very long jorney by ship (no Panama Canal). So I think the punishment was the actual trip to get here.
I have very strong opinions on how the early Catholic Popes changed the history of the Church. For example, I believe Mary Magadelene was a disciple of Christ' and some Pope in the 3rd century changed that just horrified by a woman with that status. One of the reasons I first got interested in Irish writing is the strong tradition the Irish have of women priests including during St. Patrick's times. I probably should stop writing about my weird views of religion.
I think this was a great book and discussion and think that next month's will be too.


Susan | 4707 comments By the way, Allan, if the 50's mean over a hundred in Fahrenheit then you are right. 104 today and expected to be as hot if not hotter for the next five days. Of course, it is always hot for the 4th of July. It wouldn't be the 4th without heat.


message 12: by Laura (last edited Jun 30, 2013 12:49PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Laura | 258 comments Allan wrote: "I'm wondering if anyone wants to have a discussion in this thread, given that we only have 5 days before the start of our next monthly read. I finished the book on Saturday but have been really bus..."

I would have loved having tea or maybe a drink with Lee, Hamilton and Adam but especially Lee and Hamilton. I see the trio as reflecting important values of creativity, openness, wisdom and integrity. There are so many important themes in the novel it is hard to know where/how to start.

All in all, the characters of the women didn't turn out as well as the men with the exception of Abra. I started trying to diagnose Cathy in some contemporary way and came up with all sorts of possibilities but in the end she was just plain BAD.

The Timshell theme was central to the novel and vital to our concept of human nature and potential. At the same time, as a social worker, I am aware of the many factors that influence our judgement and behavior. Was Cathy born with a constellation of traits that heavily influenced her actions? Well, it is pretty hard to explain someone like Cathy.

All in all, I love reading Steinbeck and his wonderful descriptive prose.


Susan | 4707 comments Well, it was 115 in Vegas and Phoenix yesterday or 46C. Both are used to that kind of heat. I lived in Vegas one summer during college and you had to put dishclothes on your steering wheel and sunshades on the front windows just so you get into your car. It would rain so hard that it would come to the top of your tires and a half hour later be gone completely. It evaporated that quickly. I was young, 19, and thought nothing of it. My girlfriend and I were dating guys from the Air Force base and they were taking us to see Elvis and Liberace. Now you know that I'm older than the hills.


Susan | 4707 comments I did see the Liberace movie and it was great. Michael Douglas was so good that it was scary. I don't think it's quite true that it went to TV first because it was too risque. It was made for HBO which is a television channel. The movies are much more relaxed than TV. If you get a chance to see it, then do. It's really worth it.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Laura wrote: "I would have loved having tea or maybe a drink with Lee, Hamilton and Adam but especially Lee and Hamilton. I see the trio as reflecting important values of creativity, openness, wisdom and integrity..."

Tea with Sam and Lee sounds like good fun, but I'd also jump off the wagon for a few glasses of ng-ka-py with them.

I actually didn't think too long about the timshel aspect of the novel, which was pretty neglectful of me. As much as it pervaded the book after Lee proposed its more flexible translation to Sam and Adam, I really only thought of it in relation to Cal and the aftermath of him introducing Aron to Cathy. Now that you've brought it up with Cathy's badness I'm wondering how much of Cathy's story in the final chapters was related to the thou mayest theme. She didn't go through a transformation but she did leave Aron a large inheritance with some messed-up attempt at dying well.

While you've mentioned prose, I just say I absolutely love it. Steinbeck's description of landscapes is discussed over and over again, but I can always picture myself standing in middle of whatever location he's describing to such an extent I can smell the local plants.


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

@Allan and Susan.

I've already seen Behind the Candelabra and it was excellent. The cast it very strong throughout with Matt Damon and Rob Lowe giving excellent turns, but it's definitely Douglas' movie.


Susan | 4707 comments Declan, I am so glad you mentioned Rob Lowe's performance. He was hysterical. You hardly read about him but he was so good. So was Matt Damon but asking him to play a 19 year old was quite a stretch.
Allan, you are probably right about it getting made. I was just thinking you meant they wouldn't release it in the movie theaters. Financing is a whole different ball game. Some films are getting made by funding through Kickstarter.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

While we're on the subject of movies, have you seen James Dean's East of Eden, Susan? Has anyone else for that matter?

I'm thinking of proposing it for screening at my local cinema book club, but if it's too different from the original I don't think I'd bother.


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

I was in the process of reading it when I was notified of your response. It's sounds like it was transformed into a vehicle for James Dean. I don't think I'll be proposing it unless someone can convince of its merits. And casting Dean makes no sense. What happened to coming-of-age aspect of the book? Cal and Aron's upbringing is coloured by their mother's history and their father's disposition after she leaves. There is no way that James Dean is playing a brooding 17-18 year-old struggling with his place in the world.


message 20: by Ted (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ted | 133 comments I am carrying around on vacation the 1955 East of Eden DVD (from Netflix), looking for a place to play it. Haven't found one yet, and will probably carry it back home to watch there next week. I don't have any particular expectations about the movie vs the book, the book I thought was very very good, haven't done a review yet. Of course most movies I've ever seen that have been made from significantly good novels basically fail to deliver. That's what happens when you try to condense a long, well crafted piece of writing into a two hour film. Basically very very hard to do. (Exceptions to this have been the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which while not entirely capturing the wonderful written story, were I thought tremendous movies in their own right; and the movie made of Cloud Atlas, which absolutely stunned me as being a superb film adaptation of the book.)

The East of Eden movie is supposed to be very good also from what I have seen about it. The actress who played Kate won an Oscar for best supporting actress, and the file had three other Oscar nominations, including Dean for best actor. I've never yet seen a Dean movie that I didn't think was great; of course he only made three, this being the first, and the one I haven't seen.

I don't believe the director, Elia Kazan, would have been interested in doing the film if it had merely been scripted as a "vehicle" to introduce Dean to the public. Of course I could be wrong about that.

The movie is said on Wiki to only deal with roughly the second half of the book.


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

It doesn't surprise me that it only deals with the second half, but I'd also worry that the Hamiltons will be largely removed.

And maybe it isn't a vehicle for Dean, but according to the few reviews I've been reading it is a movie about Cal Trask. If that's how it actually is, then I don't think I'd care.


message 22: by Ted (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ted | 133 comments Well I will be watching it fairly soon. I may add a comment about it here, maybe not, we'll see.


message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

I'd appreciate if you did, Ted.


Rosanne | 11 comments So glad I decided to give this book a chance, not my usual type of read and have to admit that the intro by David Wyatt nearly put me off!
A lot of lovable characters but unfortunately i felt many were fitted with a self destruct button. Lee was definitely my favourite!!!!
as for Cathy, poor Steinbeck......I wonder did he really have a wife this mad and bad.


message 25: by Ted (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ted | 133 comments Rosanne wrote: "So glad I decided to give this book a chance, not my usual type of read and have to admit that the intro by David Wyatt nearly put me off!
A lot of lovable characters but unfortunately i felt many ..."


I always read intros to book, and anything else that comes in front of the actual prose. First page to last, that's my motto.

But I abandoned the intro by Wyatt a few pages in. Frankly it was just too much like a complete spoiler, and when I realized that I was finding out more about the tale than I wanted I skipped the rest of it.

Was the character of Cathy really supposed to be related to one of his wives? I didn't know that, if true. It's also impossible to believe that most of what is said about Cathy could really be true of an actual American woman.


message 26: by Ted (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ted | 133 comments Allan wrote: "Ted-the link below explains the relationship between Cathy and Steinbeck's second wife.

http://www.oprah.com/oprahsbookclub/T..."


Thanks Allan. Though I must say I don't find this very illuminating. So Steinbeck and his second wife had an ultimately unhappy marriage, and perhaps she mostly to blame (at least on his account). Nothing in this little piece would ever make me think of the Cathy/Kate of the novel, who is Evil personified in my opinion. Perhaps there is more in the book that it seems to be taken from (the Journal he wrote about writing EofE). But I don't think I'll go to the trouble of trying to find out.


Rosanne | 11 comments Allan wrote: "Ted-the link below explains the relationship between Cathy and Steinbeck's second wife.

http://www.oprah.com/oprahsbookclub/T..."


Thanks Ted, going to check it out, it is hard to imagine anyone being as evil as Cathy.


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

I been looking at a couple of other sources and I see no reason to assume Cathy is Modelled on Gwyn. Has anyone come across a quote from Steinbeck that might give credence to this? At the moment it seems to me that people are making a big deal out of his second marriage in order to create a depth that isn't there, or merely to discuss Steinbeck's relationships with hos wives.


message 29: by Ted (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ted | 133 comments Interesting piece, Allan. I think it helps in getting a clearer picture of the relationship, which was obviously very contentious. Sounds like all the fault wasn't on one side.

But be that as it may, even though John may have hated his former wife, it doesn't strike me that he could have seriously felt that the creature he created in EofE was like his wife, except perhaps in some characteristics. What some critic thinks is another matter I suppose.


message 30: by [deleted user] (last edited Jul 02, 2013 11:49PM) (new)

The fact she bore two sons gives it a little more weight, but Cathy wasn't particularly abusive to Adam until she decided to leave. It seems more a case of needing an Eve for the piece rather than painting Gwyn negatively. I think any resemblance to Cathy was unconsciously decided on Steinbeck's part.


message 31: by Ted (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ted | 133 comments Declan wrote: "I'd appreciate if you did, Ted."

Report: East of Eden film.

Compared to the book, the film is pretty flimsy. Consider: the film story starts with Cal apparently around 18 years old, and finding out who and what Kate is; thus none of the background on any of the Trasks is presented, with the exception of a few comments about Cathy shooting Adam and leaving him; there is virtually nothing in the film about the development of the Salinas Valley, it is barely discernible as the setting; the entire Hamilton family is absent from the script, with the exception of Will, whom Cal must have the opportunity of making his killing in beans with; and finally Lee is written out of the script entirely!?

The script also plays loose with some of the things that the movie does cover, and surprisingly ends rather quickly once Aron leaves town to join the Army.

These negatives would likely make a reader of the book feel short-changed. I tried to view the movie for what it was, however, and felt that it did a good job at telling the slightly altered story of Cal and his relation to Adam and his mother. In this context James Dean as Cal was quite effective I thought, though for my money two others of the cast were impressive also. One was Jo Van Fleet as Kate (she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance). The other, who I thought actually brought another dimension to the character in the book, was Julie Harris as Abra. Ms. Harris, and the script writers who wrote her lines, were the stand out performers for me.


message 32: by [deleted user] (new)

Ted wrote: "Report: East of Eden film.

Compared to the book, the film is pretty flimsy. Consider: the film story starts with Cal apparently around 18 years old..."


Thanks, Ted. It sounds like my worst fears about the movie were true. It sounds almost unrecognisable as the story in the book. I think I'll give it a miss in spite of the strong performances.


message 33: by Ted (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ted | 133 comments I couldn't really recommend it to anyone who has read and enjoyed the book. In my opinion there is just too much story there in Steinbeck's novel to compress into two hours on screen. (Actually those who made the movie apparently felt the same way.)


Cathleen | 2409 comments Ted wrote: "I couldn't really recommend it to anyone who has read and enjoyed the book. In my opinion there is just too much story there in Steinbeck's novel to compress into two hours on screen. (Actually tho..."

Thank you, Ted, for that movie report. I wondered about ordering it from Netflix since I enjoyed the novel so much, but it doesn't sound like it would be satisfactory after having read the book. I don't envy screenwriters and directors who have to craft a movie out of a novel. I would have liked to have seen how the film depicted the Hamiltons and Lee.


message 35: by Ted (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ted | 133 comments Cathleen wrote: "Ted wrote: "I couldn't really recommend it to anyone who has read and enjoyed the book. In my opinion there is just too much story there in Steinbeck's novel to compress into two hours on screen. (..."

I agree Cathleen, the Hamiltons (Steinbeck's actual relatives, though fictionalized to some extent no doubt) and Lee were so interesting in the book.


I-like-to-read (akakate) Am I the only one that liked Cathy / Kate.

I get that she didn’t want to be a wife and mother, which is the only choice women had in those days. Women back then were the property of their father then when they got married, given away (an expression still used to this day, which makes my blood boil), they became the property of the new husband and his family, I get that she wanted her freedom to do whatever she liked, albeit that she had to murder a few people on the way is a bit extreme.

Her hatred towards her parents was something I did not understand, why could she have not just tried to run away again, I’m sure she would have been able to bribe someone not to tell her father. If her parents had abused her in some way her exit strategy would have been a bit more believable.

I couldn’t relate to Abra, couldn’t get if she really was sweet or just a manipulator. Or wanted to get married to get ride of that awful surname. (Apologies to anyone called Bacon).

I don’t think the rape was racist, more anti men, was the author trying to say that if a man went five minutes without a woman he would turn into a rapist, because that’s how it came across to me.

I thought the Hamilton family were a bit lame especially Mrs Hamilton, I’d much rather be Cahty / Kate than the downtrodden Mrs Hamilton, so dull I can’t even remember her first name.

And I did love Lee, I loved the way he took on the matriarchal role in the family. When they moved from the ranch to the city I don’t understand why he didn’t open his bookshop and stay with the family as a lodger. He obviously loved the family and saw them as his own or he wouldn’t have come back.

Don’t think I’ll bother with the film, is sounds nothing like the book, also there was a mini-series in the 80's with Jane Seymour, maybe as this was longer than the film it might be closer to the book. That said I still don’t think I’ll bother.

Overall I did enjoy the book, and gave it 4 stars.

Kate :-)


I-like-to-read (akakate) Just another thought.

At the end when Adam shouts Timshel at Cal does that mean he has forgiven him, I’m really confused about that word!


message 38: by [deleted user] (new)

I think with Cathy it came down to the fact that she was a bit of a megalomaniac and sociopath. As far as she was concerned she should always be the one calling the shots and she had no sympathy for anyone she saw as a threat or competition. She ruthlessly dispatched of anyone.

I actually liked Liza Hamilton. I would have liked to see more of her. She ran the Hamilton household with such an iron fist that Samuel was afraid to read for fear she might discover him doing so. She was the leader of the family: An old-fashioned matriarch and one sort of character this book lacked. I would have enjoyed reading more about her. The only crack in her strong façade was when she showed her longing fro her late husband.

I thought long and hard about whether the scene of Lee's birth was racist or misandristic. Although there definitely is an anti-male aspect to it, I still can't imagine Steinbeck writing it about white men. It dirtied his halo somewhat for me. Up until then I always felt that Steinbeck was nothing but an egalitarian, through his work.

I do believe that Adam forgave Cal. 'Though mayest' gave Cal the opportunity to make up for his sins.


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