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East of Eden
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message 1: by Sarah (last edited Jan 24, 2008 12:25PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sarah (songgirl7) | 284 comments Mod
What role does Lee play in the novel? How would you characterize Steinbeck’s portrayal of him?

Some of Steinbeck's ethnic and racial characterizations are loaded with stereotype. Yet he also makes extremely prescient comments about the role that many races played in the building of America, and he takes the time to give dignity to all types of persons. Lee is one example of a character that constantly subverts expectations. Can you think of other scenes or characters that might have challenged conventional notions in Steinbeck's time? In ours? How unusual do you think it might have been to write about America as a multicultural haven in the 1950s? And do you agree that that is what Steinbeck does, or do you think he reveals a darker side to American diversity?

Sarah (songgirl7) | 284 comments Mod
Although Steinbeck portrays Cathy as a near-inhuman creature of seemingly inherent evil, the idea of timshel implies that she has the power to choose her own path. Is Cathy born a moral monster, or does she become one of her own accord? What elements of Cathy’s character or episodes from the novel lead you to your conclusion?

Sarah (songgirl7) | 284 comments Mod
During the naming of the twins, Lee, Sam, and Adam have a long conversation about a sentence from Genesis, disagreeing over whether God has said an act is ordered or predetermined. Lee continues to think about this conversation and enlists the help of a group of Chinese philosophers to come to a conclusion: that God has given humans choice by saying that they may (the Hebrew word for "may," timshel, becomes a key trope in the novel), that people can choose for themselves. What is Steinbeck trying to say about guilt and forgiveness? About family inheritance versus free will? Think of instances where this distinction is important in the novel, and in your own life.

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