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Buddy Reads > East of Eden, Buddy Read

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message 1: by Zulfiya (new)

Zulfiya (ztrotter) Amy and Sarah plan to read this book together. I will try to join if my ears are free :-)

Please remember, the group read this novel more than four years ago (and I did not participate in this discussion), but I found the discussion threads in the Completed Chunkster folder on pp. 7 and 8. There is no designated folder for this book or other archived books, so if you are going to use this as a discussion booster, be careful because the threads are interspersed with other threads and are not listed chronologically.

Good luck, and let me know when you want to start. I might be able to listen to the audio book if the time permits.


message 2: by Sarah (last edited Feb 16, 2015 05:32PM) (new)

Sarah Reading Schedule for East of Eden




FEBRUARY

6th Part One: Chapters 1-7

13th Part One: Chapters 8-11

20th Part Two

27th Part Three




MARCH

6th Part Four: Chapters 34-45

13th Part Four: Chapters 46-End



In order to keep our single thread organized, we have agreed our DISCUSSIONS




... will proceed during and after the assigned week's reading. If after 3 weeks the discussion is only b/n me and Ami, we will use our own discretion as to how to proceed...i.e. speed it up, or slow it down.




... will NOT include any conversations other than those related to the discussion of the book in this thread. Personal/Private Messages work really well here.




... will title comments with the chapters discussed in bold at the beginning of the commentary, so as to keep the thread organized and focused on the individual sections (as in the actual discussion of the book).




... will read as a group and post according to the schedule; therefore, preventing any SPOILERS . For those who end up joining down the road, please pay attention to chapter headers at the beginning of each comment.




...WILL send personal/private message either to Sarah, or Ami, with any other questions regarding East of Eden Buddy Read.


message 3: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Any page references will be for the Centennial Edition

Chapters 1-7

There are so many things I find beautiful about Steinbeck's writing in this book. Right from the beginning we get California poppies These too are of a burning color - not orange, not gold, but if pure gold were liquid and could raise a cream, that golden cream might be like the color of the poppies also When June came the grasses headed out and turned brown, and the hills turned a brown which was not a brown but a gold and saffron an read - an indescribably color There are so many beautiful descriptions in this book that I could spend hours typing them in here! Also, since much of the book deals with good and evil, I liked this description I remember that the Gabilan Mountains to the east of the valley were light gay mountains full of sun and loveliness and a kind of invitation...They were beckoning mountains with a brown grass love. The Santa Lucias stood up against the sky to the west and kept the valley from the open sea, and they were dark and brooding - unfriendly and dangerous. We even have mountains that are setting the tone of the book.

Cyrus
Cyrus is an interesting character. Judging by his earlier behavior when he was in the military, he was probably a little lacking in depth or strength of character. And then he goes and tells lies so convincingly that he begins to believe them and even convinces those in power that they're true. How could someone possibly accomplish this? He does study the battles of the war and appears to become somewhat of a military strategist, but most of these people actually have access to his war records. This is completely baffling to me. I also strongly dislike this man, even after he tells Adam he loves him best. His brand of discipline is cruel and the way he forces Adam into the Army is really quite awful.

Alice Trask
An interesting character in her stay-out-of-the-way manner. Alice is such a hard worker and she seems to have nothing beyond that. There certainly seems to be no affection between her and her husband. She raises the children, seems to understand Charles well enough to be concerned She asked nervously, "What did you do?" p28 right before Charles tries to kill Adam. What makes her think that Charles is leaving her those little surprises? Because he's her son? She seems to know what an awful person he is. An interesting character.

Charles
It's interesting that Cyrus understands that Charles should not go in the military Charles is not afraid so he could never learn anything about courage. He does not know anything outside himself so he could never gain the things I've tried to explain to you. To put him in an army would be to let loose things which in Charles must be chained down, not let loose. I would not dare to let him go.p27

I think one of the most intriguing comments about Charles comes when Adam wins paying peewee. He beats Adam to a pulp and then seems to completely forget that it ever happened. Charles had one great quality. He was never sorry - ever.

Charles' injury and later the mark on his forehead interested me. I've read about the mark of Cain before but I had never actually looked it up. It does say that it's not clear if this is a visible mark, but some scholars appear to think it could have been a visible mark on the face. I read about it in a fictional book where it was placed on the forehead. On p46 we have Charles saying "It looks," he wrote, "like somebody marked me like a cow. Also The wound had not worried Charles, but the scar did. It looked like a long fingermark laid on his forehead. Given that the Adam and Charles part of the story is a retelling of Cain and Abel, I don't think this is a coincidence.

Adam
The relationship between Charles and Adam has always fascinated me. Charles actually tries to kill Adam and yet they live together once Adam is out of the Army. Adam does have a realization that he's no longer afraid of Charles, but this is still a very odd situation. Adam's wanderings and reenlistment show that he's not keen on the idea of going home. I was particularly intrigued by Alice's comment on 32 "He doesn't think his father loves him. But you love him - you always have." This is very intriguing for me. Why does Adam love Charles? Charles is so awful to him and yet in a way they're bonded. Even after Charles beats him and tries to kill him He wondered how his brother felt, wondered whether now that his passion was chilling he would feel panic or sorrow or sick conscience or nothing. These things Adam felt for him. His conscience bridged him to his brother and did his pain for him the way at other times he had done his homework.31

Once Adam joins the Army there were a few tidbits that show a bit more of his personality. Being a marksman and a sharpshooter, he was peculiarly fitted to miss. and To Adam who was an instrument, who saw not the future farms but only the torn bellies of fine humans, it was revolting and useless. When he fired his carbine to miss he was committing treason against his unit and he didn't care...to inflict any hurt on anything for any purpose became inimical to him.34 These are all interesting to me because they show so much of Adam's character. And Adam and Charles are such polar opposites. Adam won't kill even in war, but Charles tries to kill his brother.

True to both brother's relationships with their father, Charles is very upset by the fact that he was a liar and possibly a thief. Adam's response is In his chest, like beating fists, was a surge of joy. This freedom from such a domineering and tyrannical father is liberating to him. Yet his faith in his father, and his explanation that love may be unable to exist together but are more like opposites, is so fascinating. He feels liberated that his father lied and this allows him, somehow, to have faith that his father didn't lie and definitely didn't steal the money. Charles' reaction is actually the more rational one. Where could Cyrus possibly come up with $100,000 in the late 19th century. That's a lot of money. According to an inflation calculator that's the equivalent of 2.4 million now and I could only go back to 1913 on it. If we could go back to 1890 how much would that be?

I think I'm going to do the Hamiltons in a second post.


message 4: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Chapters 1-7

The Hamiltons

First there's Samuel. He sounds like such a wonderful man. He's kind, he's well loved, he's handy, he has a gift for innovation... and yet the guy can't make any money! I understand the land couldn't produce and that would be a serious issue, but it's like he can decide beautiful and convenient things and then somehow he loses the income that should go to him. It's really strange. Like he just has rotten luck. At least he's still cheery.

One interesting thing is that this actually is Steinbeck's grandfather. And of course all of the children are aunts and uncles except for Olive, who is his mother. How much of what he's relaying is his experience? How much is family legend? And how much actually is fiction? I love how he describes everyone in such detail, yet he actually knew these people.

Did you wonder why Samuel married Liza? She's so dour and she severely limits his merrier side. Until she gets prescribed port wine for medicinal purposes and She never drew a completely sober breath 43 Oh, this made me laugh. She's so harsh on people who drink alcohol but if it's for medicinal purposes. Prior to this She was suspicious of fun whether it involved dancing or singing or laughter. She felt that people having a good time were wide open to the devil. And this was a shame, for Samuel was a laughing man, but I guess Samuel was wide open to the devil. His wife protected him whenever she could. 11 Again I wonder why he married her. And I bet they all wished she had been prescribed that medicinal port wine 10 or 20 years earlier!

So then we have the children. I love his descriptions of all of them. His descriptions are so vivid and evocative. My favorite was He was born in fury and he lived in lightning. 39 This is used to describe Tom, who I admit is my favorite Hamilton anyway. But that description! It's absolutely incredible and you can actually feel what this man was like. It's a powerful description and image.


message 5: by Sarah (new)

Sarah One more thing about Cyrus and Adam

When a child first catches adults out - when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just - his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone. 19

and a second one actually that carries on with this theme.

Adam found his father out. It wasn't that his father changed but that some new quality came to Adam. He had always hated the discipline the way any normal animal does, but it was just and true and inevitable as measles, not to be denied or cursed, only to be hated. And then - it was very fast, almost a click in the brain - Adam knew that, for him at least, his father's methods had no reference to anything in the world but his father. The techniques and training were not designed for the boys at all but only to make Cyrus a great man. And the same click in the brain told Adam that his father was not a great man, that he was, indeed, a very strong-willed and concentrated little man wearing a huge busby. 20

These two I enjoy because Adam is getting a look at the true man that is Cyrus. A man who is both tyrannical and pathetic.


message 6: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Chapters 8-11

Cathy Ames
I think that Cathy is one of the characters that stands out most to me in this book. His description is so amazingly vivid that, although I've only read this three or four times, I always remember her description. Her ears in particular. And that remarkable way he has of explaining not just that she does lie, but exactly how she goes about it. It's fascinating reading. The emotions that surround her are also very well described.

The Mother
After the so-called assault of Cathy in the barn: And out of her hysteria a sadistic devil peered. She wanted blood

Mr. Ames
His uneasiness is incredibly fascinating. He repeatedly dismisses things that he can't reconcile. I feel quite sorry for him when he has to whip Cathy.

The Volunteer Fire Chief
His uneasiness when he discovers that although the bolts were thrown, the keys were not in the locks. (Why would the keys be in if they locked from the inside? This is not something I understand.)

The Town
So keen to find an answer that they almost hang an innocent man. A man who just wanted to please everyone. This scene was quite funny.

Mr. Edwards
His insane obsession with Cathy is fascinating. This willful blindness about what kind of woman she is. The best sentence of this scene: And this to a girl who had simply asked for a job as a whore - or had she?. It's interesting that even after her behavior after drinking the champagne, he still stays with her for a bit. Once she had him, which was very soon, she managed always to seem slightly dissatisfied.

Adam and Charles
They have such different reactions to her. Reactions that are true to their personalities. Does Adam fall for her immediately because she's helpless and he can care for her?

Charles is the most telling. She and Charles are cut from the same cloth. Both of them even realize that there is something in the other that they recognize, and it makes them uneasy.

They mystery of this section - Charles and Adam are wealthy, right? So why in the world is Charles so incredibly upset about not getting his $100 back from Adam? They're family. And $100 is a drop in the bucket. It's highly strange.


message 7: by Ami (last edited Apr 08, 2015 12:34PM) (new)

Ami First Impressions

Sorry for the delay, but I've had the most difficult time articulating my thoughts on how I feel about what I've read in just this one section. After all this time, all I can come up with for you without any colorful expletives is, "what in the world have we gotten ourselves into?" From the first page, I knew I was in for something "breathtaking;" Chapters 2-4, I knew it was going to be "sensational;" Chapters 5-7, "remarkable;" and (view spoiler)! I cannot believe I've gone this long without having read East of Eden until now. I understand Steinbeck received the Nobel in Literature and the Pulitzer for The Grapes of Wrath, but the beginnings of this novel has engulfed my mind...I am pleasantly surprised. It's just crazy good!!

Chapter 1
A setting in the Salinas River Valley, Steinbeck writes a most exquisite epistle describing a most surreal backdrop. I thought it evoked more of a love affair, but a love affair of dread with the west coast. From the descriptions of the California poppies (as you mentioned), to the five-fingered ferns and gold-backs; it's as if they were held within his hands, being wooed, but at the same time going limp and wilting away...Does this make sense? In comparison to the East coast, I felt there was a sense of foreboding associated with the West.

Chapter 2 & How much of what he's relaying is his experience? How much is family legend? And how much actually is fiction?
While reading about Samuel Trask, I made note of There was a whisper-not even a rumor but rather an said feeling-in my family that it was love drove him out, and not love of the wife he married because it made me think about what I had read in the preliminary pages of the introduction. It was said, Steinbeck wrote this novel during a time period when "three life-changing events occurred: his second divorce from Gwendolyn Conger; he left California for New York; and his best friend and mentor, Ed Ricketts had died." In fact, "both of Steinbeck's big books were written on the cusp of divorce" (X). I think in the case for this novel art has imitated life, in a matter of speaking.

And of course all of the children are aunts and uncles except for Olive, who is his mother.
Then Steinbeck must be the narrator, since it is Olive's son who is telling the story...Right (42)?

Did you wonder why Samuel married Liza?
I did wonder why, but then thought different of my original mind set surrounding their relationship. Essentially, they are both immigrants from Ireland in the early 1900s. I think their relationship was more a union of practicality, than the merging of their soul's counterpart in one another. Liza was good mother, tended to the house well, and the Hamilton kids were revered as good children by society (something Liza did take pride in). I thought it was great, in spite of her aversion to drinking, she ended an alcoholic; increasing her port wine medicine to a tablespoon and then a quart by the end of her life due to constipation issues (43)!

She must have had a pelvic arch of whalebone, for she had big children one after the other, nine of them, four boys and 5 girls...I laughed at this description (11).

Chapter 3 & 7
Enter the Trask's and the Cain and Abel story. I was a little confused as to what exactly happened to Mrs. Trask...In the absence of Cyrus, she had conjugal relations, but Cyrus is the one who gave her an STD. In acquiring his disease, did she lose her mind and commit suicide...Is this right? I'm thinking he gave her syphillis.

I don't have enough to say about Cyrus than I do about how Steinbeck metamorphosed his character in a matter of pages, from an egg to a bat! More than anything I was absolutely baffled by Adam's response to Charlie in Chapter 7, in regards to the legitimacy of Cyrus' legacy and accrued wealth I believe in the war he did just what he said he did and was just where he said he was...I believe my father, and the comparison of his belief to those who believe God does exist (70). The last two pages were, perhaps, the most poignant of the first seven chapters, I thought. The consequences of love and the reverse effect it can sometimes have on those one hold's in high esteem, smacked me in the face with level of honesty Adam spoke with...Shivers up my spine. I think Cyrus embezzled, did you when you read it the first time?

The fear of Cyrus' "gentle" moments shown towards Adam versus the violent, was very keen observation behalf of a child...almost being subjected to kindness before death, it's heartbreaking (24). Or the professing of Cyrus to Adam, You're not clever. You don't know what you want. You have no proper fierceness...Sometimes I think you're a weakling who will never amount to a dog turd...I love you better. Does that answer your question? I love you better. I always have, I didn't see this coming (28).

Chapter 5
I found in this chapter, Steinbeck finds fault in some of the Bible when describing how Liza never studied the Bible or inspected it; she just read it. The many places where it seems to refute itself did not confuse her in the least (43).

My favorite was He was born in fury and he lived in lightning. This is used to describe Tom, who I admit is my favorite Hamilton anyway. But that description! It's absolutely incredible and you can actually feel what this man was like. It's a powerful description and image.

Oh, yes...Mine too. I don't know if he's my favorite as of yet, but I think there's something in store for us/me in the coming chapters.

Questions
What was meant by She had a button nose and a hard little set-back chin, a gripping jaw set on its course even though 'angels of God argued against it, in regards to Liza Hamilton (11)?

On page 36, in Chapter 4, Steinbeck writes how in the in the exchange of letters there grew a closeness neither of them could have imagined between Adam and Charles; but then Adam is described to have been given chills and he didn't know why at the letter Charles finished writing in pencil redundantly saying Seems like to me there's something not finished (37). I didn't get a sense of closeness at all, I felt a sense of foreboding, that something bad was on the horizon.

On page 53, in Chapter 6, Adam remembered his father's tone and how he looked. And he had plenty of time to remember, because he did rot in barracks. He remembered that Cyrus was lonely and alone-and knew it...Did/does Adam rot in the barracks, I don't remember reading he did.


message 8: by Sarah (new)

Sarah In comparison to the East coast, I felt there was a sense of foreboding associated with the West.
I believe that all of that gorgeous description applied to the Salinas Valley. I didn't think there was a sense of foreboding. I could have missed it though. But all of the Charles and Adam stuff happens near Boston I think.

Steinbeck is the narrator. There's one scene where he shows up too :)

Enter the Trask's and the Cain and Abel story. I was a little confused as to what exactly happened to Mrs. Trask...In the absence of Cyrus, she had conjugal relations, but Cyrus is the one who gave her an STD. In acquiring his disease, did she lose her mind and commit suicide...Is this right? I'm thinking he gave her syphillis.

I didn't see that she had conjugal relations when he wasn't there. I thought she was very Ferula-like and wanted to be a martyr or was into mental self flagellation. It sounds like she thought the syphilis was something she needed to atone for and she mentally tortured herself until suicide seemed to be the only possible sacrifice.

I never really thought that Cyrus embezzled the money. He was more about his image and reputation than money itself. I have no idea how he could have gotten it though!

It's interesting because you mentioned Adam's weird belief in his father and then you mentioned Liza's The many places where it seems to refute itself did not confuse her in the least . I would say these two go together.

The "gripping jaw" - I think he's just saying that she's stubborn and all the power in heaven couldn't have moved her an inch.

I think the rest of Charles and Adam's letters brought them closer but there was something in that letter that reminded Adam of what Charles was. It wasn't a letter that Charles even intended to send so it sounds atypical of their letters.

I think the "rot in barracks" comment just refers to the fact that he went into the military again and spent 4 or 5 years in barracks.


message 9: by Ami (new)

Ami Sarah wrote: " In comparison to the East coast, I felt there was a sense of foreboding associated with the West.
I believe that all of that gorgeous description applied to the Salinas Valley. I didn't think the..."


Steinbeck is the narrator. There's one scene where he shows up too :)

Wait, where did this happen...The only thing I noticed was when he said something along the lines of "Olive is my mother?" Was there another instance?

I didn't see that she had conjugal relations when he wasn't there
Okay, what is meant by the line But the disease was not punishment enough for her nocturnal philanderings (15).

The "gripping jaw" - I think he's just saying that she's stubborn and all the power in heaven couldn't have moved her an inch.
Yes, this makes sense now.

I think the rest of Charles and Adam's letters brought them closer but there was something in that letter that reminded Adam of what Charles was. It wasn't a letter that Charles even intended to send so it sounds atypical of their letters.

Thank you, yes, of course! It was a reminder to Adam.


message 10: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Very briefly, later in the book someone goes to Olive's house and he's there. It's cute.

I missed that about nocturnal philandering but I would guess it means dreams rather than fact.


message 11: by Ami (last edited Feb 17, 2015 11:36AM) (new)

Ami Sarah wrote: "Very briefly, later in the book someone goes to Olive's house and he's there. It's cute.

Sarah? This is a spoiler, dude!!!! :P

I missed that about nocturnal philandering but I would guess it means dreams rather than fact.
Ahhhh, got it...Yes, she did mention something about having illicit dreams.


message 12: by Sarah (new)

Sarah I swear it's not a spoiler because it's a totally insignificant moment.


message 13: by Ami (new)

Ami Cain and Abel...Charles and Adam
Before I post for the next few chapters, I wanted to delve into the C&A story a little bit more than just knowing the parallels exist. For reference, I used the Old Testament (Sorry, King James) to review the story. A couple of things I made note of: The mark on Cain's forehead was a means to distinguish him as protected by God when he was cursed to living a life of a fugitive and wanderer-Nobody else would be able to kill him without being punished "sevenfold," by God...Cain settled in the land of Nod, which was located East of Eden... Cain's progeny multiplied and they became the first metalworkers and musicians who lived dissident lives not in line with the word of God-They all perished in the great Flood. Adam and Eve had another son named Seth and his people lived in accordance to God (I think).

In comparison to EoE, other than the obvious similarities, did you assume Cyrus to be the God-like figure? I didn't take this into consideration until I read the discussion about the validity of Cyrus' legacy between Adam and Charles (I mentioned this in a previous comment). After reading Genesis 4, it makes a lot more sense; especially, when Adam says "I have faith in my father." If anybody was going to be the non-believer, I would have thought it was going to be Adam.

Charles, on two occasions, was on the verge of killing Adam due to the actions afflicted by Cyrus onto his sons. Although Charles is molded from a Cain-like image, I found that I have more compassion for Charles than I did Cain...Charles is jilted by Cyrus and finds himself desperate for his father's approval-He's troubled from the get go, I thought. I find myself making excuses for him much like Alice Trask did when she was explaining to Adam, "Charles had good in him..." in spite of the bad things he's capable of doing. In fact, I like him better than I do Adam. Adam, I think, he's got his head in the clouds. I wonder if I would have felt different if Charles had killed Adam the second time?

Cyrus & Chapter 8-11: How could someone possibly accomplish this? He does study the battles of the war and appears to become somewhat of a military strategist, but most of these people actually have access to his war records.
I don't find Cyrus to be a very believable character, Sarah... It's too far-fetched. I too can't figure out how not one person Cyrus ever came into contact with questioned his so-called activities during the war. It's funny because Cathy Ames is one of the most arguable characters in history, as far as validity of the character, and I'm sitting here questioning Cyrus...Cathy, I see as believable.

I didn't think there was a sense of foreboding. I could have missed it though.
Yes, it is the Salinas River Valley he's describing...It's what I meant by the West Coast.

One of your quotes describing the valley I remember that the Gabilan Mountains to the east of the valley were light gay mountains full of sun and loveliness and a kind of invitation...They were beckoning mountains with a brown grass love. The Santa Lucias stood up against the sky to the west and kept the valley from the open sea, and they were dark and brooding - unfriendly and dangerous was actually my first inclination to the East/West embodying feelings of contentment/foreboding. There's also a section in Chapter 13 (view spoiler)


message 14: by Ami (new)

Ami Sarah wrote: "Chapters 8-11

I think that Cathy is one of the characters that stands out most to me in this book. His description is so amazingly vivid that, although I've only read this three or fou..."


Cathy Ames
I thought what stood out to you, her ears, was interesting. I on the other hand, can't get her hoof-like feet out of my head, or her voice that could cut like a file when she wished-She's essentially being alluded to a monster. The reactions of other people in Cathy's presence was something out of a Stephen King novel (I read a chapter in "It" the other day)...Even as a child she had some quality that made people look at her, then look away, then look back at her, troubled at something foreign. 'Something looked out of her eyes, and was never there when one looked again. There are so many great instances of Cathy's disturbance she distributed so subtly (73).

Granted, her own idea of herself is not better and this was clearly seen in the exchange between Cathy and Mrs. Ames...I can get to be 'so' little you can't even see me...Nobody can find me-Talk about foreshadowing. The next part reminded me of something from one of the iconic head spinning scenes in the original Exorcist movie, when it was described...Cathy turn her head very slowly and looked at her mother. Her eyes were expressionless and cold. And suddenly Mrs. Ames was afraid of her daughter (82). She's not just a manipulating temptress, something not of this world lives inside of her...The Devil-incarnate, I wonder?

Sarah, how about I didn't realize both Mr. and Mrs. Ames were inside the house when she set it aflame...I thought Mrs. Ames left and Mr. Ames was at work? Steibeck said Mrs. Ames wasn't even gone ten minutes...So she came back? Nobody saw the apron on fire on the stove...I didn't get it?

Mr. Edwards and Chapter 9
What does it say about a man who instills the only fear Cathy Ames has succumbed to...I was completely absorbed by chapter 9. I loved how she manipulated her way into his life, took him for every penny, thought she was going to get one over him, Mr. Edwards leaves her for dead without a single penny to her name and she ends up dragging herself up onto somebody's front porch...Hmmm! LOVED IT!

Chapter 10 Adam and Charles getting restless
Looks like the boys are on some type of never-ending cycle with one another. Adam's need to wander, leaves for Boston and doesn't come back for another eight months. Then he leaves again to travel South American and about a year later, Adam returns to the homestead yet again. He keeps coming back...What is this? Don't you find it interesting that Charles is the only one troubled by acquisition of their father's wealth...He's the only one who continues to question the legitimacy of the money.

Chapter 11...Knocking on Heaven's Door?
Oh, I knew this was going to happen...I just didn't know how one was going to get to the other.

I can't believe Adam is so taken with Cathy, is he really this blind. I found it very peculiar, again, how Charles seems to show so much more restraint towards Cathy than Adam does. As well-traveled and worldly, intelligent and well-learned as Adam is compared to Charles who hasn't been anywhere outside of his town, Charles seems to have more common sense than Adam. I've mentioned it before, but there's something very inane and dull about Adam, in spite of his worldly optimism. I'm losing respect for this cat; especially now since the marriage. I can't believe she drugged Adam...Well, I can, but how much worse is this going to get?

Poignant Statements
I think the difference between a lie and a story is that a story utilizes the trappings and appearance of truth for neither gain nor loss. But a lie is a device for profit or escape (74).

What freedom men and women could have, were they not constantly tricked and trapped and enslaved and tortured by their sexuality! (75).


message 15: by Sarah (new)

Sarah After reading Genesis 4, it makes a lot more sense; especially, when Adam says "I have faith in my father." If anybody was going to be the non-believer, I would have thought it was going to be Adam

I did wonder about this because of his statement of faith. Is Cyrus the God figure? I have no idea. Does God lie a lot so that he's everywhere at once? An argument could be made I suppose. Interesting that if Cyrus is meant this way, Adam doesn't love him but has faith in him. What does this mean?

I actually have no compassion for Charles. Once he tried to kill Adam and then didn't even remember it? I don't like him. However, I've never been much of a fan of Adam either. There's nothing to grab on to with Adam, he's too absent. Or distant. I can't seem to come up with the word I mean.

The mountains are interesting. I was actually thinking about the Eastern mountains and the connection with Cain being cast out East of Eden. I never thought the west was foreboding. I thought it was emphasizing the beauty of the east.

I've been thinking about Cathy in relation to Eden for awhile. I couldn't figure out how she fit in. The snake seemed the most obvious, but the snake has always been more about temptation to me. She is deceitful. Anyway, last night I remembered the myth of Lilith, which I looked up just now. Lilith isn't present in Christian mythology but she is in pre-Christian mythology in multiple cultures. Jewish myth is the best documented I think. She was Adam's first wife but she wouldn't be subservient (to God or Adam, I've heard both) and left Eden, becoming either a demon or the mother of demons (again depending on what you read). Lilith the demon fits Cathy very well BUT she's not present in Christian mythology. So I have no idea what Steinbeck's intention was.

As for the fire - the ten minutes was just for how much time it took Cathy to butcher the chicken, gather the blood, and put the apron in the stove. The apron. I didn't notice the apron and I don't think I ever have! I've always wondered how the fire started. This is a total LOL moment for me. Anyway, the fire broke out at 3am so it makes sense that they were in the house.

I think Adam is not troubled by the money because he has faith. On the other hand, Charles is dishonest and Adam is honest and good. So maybe it's a matter of their own personalities leaking out.

I can't believe Adam is so taken with Cathy, is he really this blind I also find this interesting. Partially because it happens before she even wakes up. She's unconscious and he's falling for her. But she seems to inspire this type of reaction, doesn't she? Charles is immune because he recognizes what she is.

I can't believe she drugged Adam...Well, I can, but how much worse is this going to get? Oh, this is a smug little wait and see moment for me ;)

I like the quote you put up about the definition of a lie. It's a fine hair to split but it gives you an excellent idea of what Cathy is like.


message 16: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Part Two

And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected.

Charles
he became rich without pleasure and respected without friends What does Charles want from life? There's a quote that says So bright was his glory that he did not notice the sullen pain in his brother, did not see the glinting in his brother's eyes. Part of me wondered if some of this pain was because Cathy was leaving? Something made me think of this but I can't imagine what would make me think that over the pain of his brother leaving.

Cathy
The attempted abortion scene was quite interesting. That cold little demon seemed to be looking out through her eyes until she realized it wasn't working. And that she was actually in quite a bit of legal danger. Then her entire face transforms and she blames it on epilepsy in her family. This is very similar to the birth scene with Samuel except that Samuel won't be taken in so she doesn't even try. She lashes out instead.

The Hamiltons
The scene with the Tom and the sofa always makes me laugh until I cry. It's interesting too, because it shows an absolute genius for problem solving and a complete and total inability to grasp consequences. And can you imagine being the women he's taking? He shows up on a sofa? It's hysterical!

Then there's Olive and the plane scene. She goes through so much effort - buying new undergarments, burning her letters, writing her will, giving her ring to her daughter - and then that awful time in the plane! She's completely convinced that it's going to crash anyway and then he pulls out every trick in the book over a misunderstanding. What a fabulous family story that would make! Horrible moments though. I also liked the scattergun method for dealing with things. When John got sick and she pulls in all of those methods of healing him, it's such an incredibly practical way of dealing with things. And of course, If the Germans had known Olive and had been sensible they would have gone out of their way not to anger her. Is this affection he feels for his mother or just dry humor? Either way I absolutely love it.

Samuel
There's so much to say about Samuel that it's impossible to cover it all. He's a fascinating man. In my own way I tell jokes because people come all the way to my place to laugh. I try to be funny for them even when the sadness is on me. Their farm may be an impossible place to live but Samuel is a really good man. He incredibly resourceful, he's kind, he's brilliant at everything, he loves and fears his wife, he loves his family... there's just so much to love about this man. I also love his easy acceptance and understanding of Lee's situation. His memory of the hanging of the golden man was interesting. I wonder what the parallel is here?

Joe
off to college - to that school Leland Stanford has built on his farm near Palo Alto This is fantastic. I had no idea Stanford started on a farm.

Liza
It was well known that Liza Hamilton and the Lord God held similar convictions on nearly every subject.

Cathy
There's a scene on 171 where Cathy is chewing a piece of meat and her little tongue flicked around her lips which makes me think her role is supposed to be the snake. There's a lot that happens with Cathy over the course of this story and she's probably one of my least favorite characters so I don't want to discuss her in particular. She shoots Adam to get away as soon as she can get away from the children. Then she goes off to a whorehouse (how is this better than her life with Adam), where she wins everyone over, kills the madam, and takes over. I find it interesting that Steinbeck mulls over whether Cathy can be called a monster or not. Because we don't know what her desires are and if she ever gets what she wants. Is this what she wants? Is this worth killing for? Her weakness with alcohol is kind of fascinating. Alcohol does reduce inhibitions but in her case it seems to completely strip them away and all of the vileness of her personality comes through.

Lee
Lee is my other favorite character. I love his outlook on being a servant. To him it's the best thing in the world even though he has to act Chinese. As Samuel says He has a gift of resigned loyalty without hope of rewards. He's maybe a much better man than either of us could dream of being

The discussion about Cain and Abel is quite interesting. I like the comment that Cain bore the mark not to destroy him but to save him What does this mean about Charles and Cathy's marks? I just realized that Cathy also starts with a C.

Quote:
It would be absurd if we did not understand both angels and devils, since we invented them.


message 17: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Part Three

Yet another interesting section. I hadn't realized before that it's actually the Hamilton's story that I love the most. I'm going to go with some quotes because I absolutely love the way Steinbeck treats his family. There's so much love, compassion, affection, and humor. It's wonderful.

Tom felt his darkness. His father was beautiful and clever, his mother was short and mathematically sure. Each of his brothers and sisters had looks or gifts or fortune. Tome loved all of them passionately, but he felt heavy and earth-bound. He climbed ecstatic mountains and floundered in the rocky darkness between the peaks.

He told me how a man, a real man, had no right to let sorrow destroy him. He told me again and again how I must believe that time would take care of it. He said it so often that I knew he was losing.

"You may thank God you didn't want to be an actor, Tom, because you would have been a very bad one."

Perhaps it takes these two kinds to make a good marriage, riveted with several kinds of strengths.

Come to think of it, none of the Hamiltons, with all their versatility had any versatility in love. None of them seemed capable of light or changeable love.

"Those Hamiltons! Just look at them!"


Those Hamiltons indeed. I love these people with all of my heart. Except Will! I love the scene where Dessie comes home and there are all of those welcome home notes all over, culminating in the rocks spelling it out on the field. She's so delighted and he's so thoughtful. The tragedy that happens with Dessie and Tom makes me cry every time. And between reads, this is the scene that always sticks in my mind between reads. That scene where Tom is so devastated that he commits suicide. Dessie dies, Tom dies, and the whole time I'm crying for these poor people. Especially Tom. And then there's Una's sad death and Samuel's inability to handle it. That the light should go out of such an inspiring man is so tragic.

I have much to say about Adam, Cathy, Lee, and the boys. I'll be back soon.


message 18: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Part Three

There's so much to talk about on the Adam/Cathy side that I can't possibly fit it all in without sitting here for the rest of the day. I'm going to try to sum it up.

I think my favorite thing about reading on this part of the story is that I really love Lee. There are so many fascinating things about the family though. My favorite moments:

When Adam goes and sees Kate at the whorehouse. That moment is like the moment in Labyrinth where she says "You have no power over me". This is the brilliant part of this scene. Adam looks at her and finally really sees her. He takes back his own personal power and leaves her weakened. And then when he's on his way home it's like he's seeing everything in a way that he never has before. Colors are brighter, scents are sharper, and everything is so much lovelier than before. Lee of course, immediately notices the difference. It's a very tangible moment and I love to see that. I also love that Cathy acknowledges that she hated Samuel because He looked - he looked into me. I also love it when Adam says I wonder what it is you hate so much. This is an excellent question because she really does seem to be full of hate. Later he says I know what you hate. You hate something in them you can't understand. You don't hate their evil. You hate the good in them you can't get at. When he finally does see her, he really sees her!

The next interesting interaction between them is when Adam goes to tell Cathy about the money Charles left her. She absolutely can't comprehend that he doesn't have an angle, he's just trying to do the right thing. I don't know what the trick is, but I'm going to find out. then

Adam stopped and slowly turned and his eyes were thoughtful. "I hadn't considered before," he said, and he moved toward her until he towered over her and she had to tilt back her head to look into his face. "I said I didn't understand about," he said slowly.. "Just now it came to me what you don't understand."
"What don't I understand, Mr. Mouse?"
"You know about the ugliness in people. You showed me the pictures. You use all the sad, weak parts of a man, and God knows he has them."


Later he comments that there's a part of her missing. Steinbeck seems to be exploring the idea that good and evil can't understand each other, and maybe even that we are the way we are. There's kind of an idea here that good and evil is born rather than learned.

And then we have Cal and Aron. Some of this seems like a repeat of Charles and Adam but I always feel that Cal has a little more good in him than Charles and that Aron is actually sort of angelic. Unless he's crying when he fights. Then he's apparently a holy terror. But Aron is so good and pure and sweet that he's almost too much to take.

I know that Samuel says at one point that the two boys were born in two sacs and then Lee says they came from two different eggs (which that little b**ch Abra sneers at). I've always had the impression that Charles is Cal's father and Adam is Aron's. I don't know that it ever confirms that though.

Maybe the difference between the two boys can best be described in this way. If Aron should come upon an anthill in a little clearing in the brush, he would like on his stomach and watch the complications of and life - he would see some of them bringing food in the ant roads and others carrying the white eggs. He would see how two members of the hill on meeting put their antennas together and talked. For hours he would lie absorbed in the economy of the ground.
If, on the other hand, Cal came upon the same anthill, he would kick it to pieces and watch while the frantic ants took care of their disaster. Aron was content to be a part of his world, but Cal must change it


This is so much like Charles and Adam and yet they're just a bit different. Just different enough to not be a repeat. And to have Cal praying Don't let me be mean

The moment where they all stand around learning how to start the Ford is so very funny. And then later they help Adam. I love this :)

Lee's story about his mother is so horribly sad. I can't imagine knowing about it.

And then we have one of the most fascinating scenes. The moment where Samuel, Adam, and Lee discuss the meaning of timshel in the bible. This comes into play in a critical way later so I want to make sure to put it here for reference. So this idea that one bible says "Do thou", one says "Thou shalt", and the third has timshel which means "Thou mayest". This is really a powerful moment and such an important difference. It might be the most important word in the world. I love it that Lee is so passionate about this. He wants so badly for them to understand, especially Samuel. But this - this is a ladder to climb to the stars."


message 19: by Sarah (last edited Mar 14, 2015 06:54AM) (new)

Sarah Chapters 34-45

In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror. It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world

I think this kind of sums up what he's trying to accomplish with this novel. This idea that people want to be loved most of all. It's also a beautiful sentiment and would be an excellent way to live your life. I don't much care if I'm forgotten when I'm gone, because that would just make me a normal human. But for people to celebrate that I'm gone? That's just an awful thought.

I know I've said it before but I again have to say that I really love Lee. I love that he leaves and wants his bookstore. And I love that he can't stay away. He just loves that family and is a part of it. The boys seem utterly unaffected by his leaving but later they make a bet that he'll be back. "He'll come back," said Aron. "He'll get lonesome for us. You'll see." Cal argues, the bet is placed and Aron was not able to collect his winnings for nearly a month, but he won six days later. There's something so warm and affectionate in this whole exchange. These four are a family, a unit. And then when Lee gets back, he throws caution to the winds and starts spending a bunch of money. Until Adam gets jealous and wants to spend some too. This is such a funny little exchange.

You know Cal's plan on how to not have to do any work in school? That boy's kind of brilliant. And it's even funnier that they learn easily so they don't really need it. But that boy really knows how to figure things out and get the upper hand. Yet Aron is the one who's adored. Mostly because of his looks, I think. I certainly don't see much I like in his personality. He's selfish and prone to bull-headed anger. But Cal, He lived alone and walked alone. I think this sentence is highly descriptive and sad and then I looked again at "walked alone" and realized it's evoking Cain walking the earth forever. This is interesting. I don't see that Cal has Cain in him. He makes foolish decisions maybe, but he does not want to be mean and he certainly doesn't want to be like Cathy. And I loved Lee when Cal said I know-because I've got her in me. and Lee jumped up. "You stop that!" he said sharply. "You hear me? Don't let me catch you doing that. And then he goes on to point out that Cal has good in him too. Lee really fights for these boys. He obviously loves them. And then when Cal meets Cathy, I could practically weep for him when he says Cal said, "I was afraid I had you in me." "You have," said Kate. "No, I haven't. I'm my own. I don't have to be you." I love that moment where he says "I'm my own". Does this remind you of timshel? And Cathy's own thoughts: The dark brother might be dangerous. She had felt his quality. Cal had beaten her. I love to see Cal taking his destiny into his own hands.

I also liked Lee's description of Adam. "I think your father has in him, magnified, the things his wife lacks. I think in him kindness and conscience are so large that they are almost faults. They trip him up and hinder him." Did you find this as enlightening as I did? I'm not a big fan of Adam for some reason but then I look at this perception and I see him a little differently. Maybe he's a better man that what I see.

It's interesting that in Steinbeck's discussion of good and evil, he takes time for corruption too. When it got to the editorial stage everyone knew the cards were down. What followed was as carefully produced as a ballet. The police got ready, the gambling houses got ready, and the papers set up congratulatory editorials in advance. The came the raid, deliberate and sure. Twenty or more Chinese, imported from Pajaro, a few bums, six or eight drummers, who, being strangers, were not warned, fell into the police net, were booked, jailed, and in the morning fined and released. The town relaxed in its new spotlessness and the houses lost only one night of business plus the fines. It is one of the triumphs of the human that he can know a thing and still not believe it.

Although this piece is quite humorous, I don't think it was entirely meant to be. It shows the pulse of a small town along with its belief in its own moral superiority and its willingness to look the other way. Steinbeck may be a little stumped by this but I don't think he's taking it lightly. It's interesting that in the midst of this, when Cal is picked up at a gambling house, it actually makes Cal and Adam grow closer. Adam is within reach a bit more and wants to understand his sons better. He also seems to be surprised that he did not know them. And yet he says to Cal "Your voice tells and your eyes tell you're at war with yourself.". A moment of such crystal clear insight.

I also dislike Aron when he goes to such trouble to graduate a year early and then doesn't bother to tell Adam. Adam goes through so much effort to be ready to congratulate him and then Aron is too full of his own selfish arrogance to even bother to tell him. He's still ashamed over the lettuce incident. This does not make me like Aron any more! Actually he's kind of a jerk.

There's a moment on page 455 in my book that is interesting in the biblical implications. It's after Cal and Adam discuss gambling houses and what the two boys are like. Then Adam seemed to grow until he filled one side of the room. His face was stern and his blue eyes sharp and penetrating. Did you think of God when you read this? It's interesting because there are two rounds of these boys. Charles and Adam seem to be Cain and Abel but then who is God in that situation? As far as I've seen, this is the only thing that could be compared to God.

I can't wait to finish!


message 20: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Chapters 46-End

One humorous thing in this book is when Steinbeck is talking about how Americans picked up a lot of fashion devices from the British. Then he goes on to say that we would never pick up the habit of wearing wrist watches. I immediately flipped to the picture of Steinbeck on the back of my book and yes, he's wearing a watch. :) This made me laugh.

So in this section we see a lot more of Cal and Aron, as well as Adam. Their personalities that is. It was heartbreaking that Cal worked so hard to make that money for Adam and he just rejected it. And poor Cal is overcome with jealousy even though he's fighting it. Because Adam says I would have been so happy if you could have given me - well, what your brother has - pride in the thing he's doing, gladness in his progress. Not only is he rejecting Cal's gift, he's then comparing him to Aron and showing Cal how he falls short. Obviously we have another Cain and Abel moment here, but I feel so sorry for Cal who, as Lee says, "He's crammed full to the top with every good thing and every bad thing." It's an insightful moment though, when Cal realizes that Adam loves Aron best because Aron looks like Cathy.

I really like Abra when she's with Cal. I didn't like her as a child and I didn't really like her when she was with Aron. But she's good with Cal.

Lee of course is as loveable as always. I wondered in this section if Lee is actually meant to represent knowledge. The knowledge of good and evil that Adam and Eve gained when they ate the fruit. He always seems to strike a middle path and see both sides of things. He fights so hard for Cal and I love him for that.

Cal's one decision to tell Aron the truth about their mother is mean, and I understand it comes out of jealousy, but my God, what horrible consequences. So many awful things happen because of it. That moment that Adam gives his blessing timshel is really wonderful and very powerful.


message 21: by Ami (last edited Mar 26, 2015 10:13AM) (new)

Ami Sarah wrote: "Part Two

Part II

What does Charles want from life?
I thought Charles wanted everything Adam had...At least for a moment. Charles, as much as I prefer him Adam, is rather fickle; in the sense he wants what Adam has, but only keeps and maintains it for a hot minute. Thereafter, he's back to square one...Working his land, the prostitutes every few months, and accumulating his wealth. He's slow and steady, I think.

Cathy
Part II was a great section for Cathy, I thought. I finished it thinking: What the hell is she...How believable is her character...And which character represents her alter ego; Samuel, or Lee (I think Lee).

There's a scene on 171 where Cathy is chewing a piece of meat and her little tongue flicked around her lips which makes me think her role is supposed to be the snake.
Yes, I honed in on this as well, but especially on how she chewed her food. Granted, her molars were knocked out in that horrendous scene on the bridge before she ended up dragging herself on to the Trask farm, but the serpentine-like tongue was unforgettable.

During the birth of the twins, Steinbeck's portrayal of Cathy in labor described her as more of an animal snarling in her pain...only a series of grunting and squeals, no crying or screams (192). Maybe labor has the tendency to bring out the worst in all of us, given the circumstances, but Cathy's experience just seemed a little too bizarre.

Her departure from the Trask farm was interesting in the sense the Sheriff allowed bygones to be bygones and let the dead dogs lay as they were. It seemed as if Cathy was too much of a nuisance than he cared to deal with, so instead, he allows her to bear no responsibility for her children and family.

The Hamiltons
Tom's carriage rigging, I didn't find nearly as entertaining as Olive's ride in the army airplane where the pilot referred to her as the goddamest woman I ever saw...Good Christ, what pilot she would have made (155)! You are so correct, Sarah, when you say, What a fabulous family story that would make! ...and so it did. I really enjoy the Hamiltons very much.

Lee
I loved the introduction of Lee into the mix of very rich characters. I loved the subtleties in dynamics between him and Cathy. She can't put a finger on it, but there's something about Lee that rubs her the wrong way and anything that makes Cathy uncomfortable, I enjoy reading about. The last line describing Lee on page 161l left me feeling just this ...She was not afraid of Lee, yet she was not comfortable with him either. But he was goo and respectful servant-the best. And what harm could he do her?

Samuel and Lee
These two were like Mutt and Jeff! The discussions between these two were some of the most prolific exchanges in the whole book. I especially was touched by Lee explanation behind speaking Pidgin in front of the masses, but proper English only in the company of a select few. Samuel being one of these very few, Lee says to him, You are one of the rare people who can separate your observation from your preconception. you see what is, where most people see what they expect (163). It's not rocket science their discussions, but really a bright light shown upon realities so easily forgotten. Then there's an aspect of their conversation which really hit close to home for me...Lee explains to Samuel how life in China, should he decide to move back, would actually be much harder for him than to remain in California. When he last visited China, Lee essentialy endured reverse racism by his own culture. They referred to him as a foreign devil because of lack of proper cultural mannerisms, his appearance, and his speech (164). According to Lee, they wouldn't have me...I am less foreign here than I was in China. It's so true, even today Sarah, for second generation foreign children born in this country to be considered strangers in their parents' native land...No matter how in tuned we are to our native culture, something is always amiss.

Tom
Upon Samuel meeting Cathy at Adam's farm and the components of the discussions which ensued i.e. Tom, farming, family, etc., I had a strong feeling down the road, Tom and Cathy would find themselves enmeshed with one another, I'm so glad I was wrong.

As of Chapter 22, I didn't understand why Samuel was so involved with Adam and his well-being. He took so much more responsibility than necessary of neighbor...Didn't you think? Samuel is, as you said, such a kind and altruistic character, it would be unheard of he didn't take an interest Adam...Right? He's very taken by Adam, very intrigued. His explanation to Adam about not knowing the real Cathy... To you she was (beautiful) because you built her. I don't think you ever saw-only your own creation (262). Here Adam's greatest, amongst many, struggles is that he was questioning the life of his children due having Cathy's blood too running through their veins. But here too, Samuel says something very thought provoking ..And I will warn you now that not their blood by your suspicion might build evil in them. They will be what you expect of them...I don't very bunch believe in blood, I think when a man finds good or bad in his children he is seeing only what he planted in them after they cleared the womb (262).

When it came to naming the children, it reminded me of the book, The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri, it's all about the understanding of value and burden placed in a name...How to carry oneself in a culture different than your own, assimilation, the differences between generations due to this assimilation and the loss of the self once we become too blended. There's a lot that goes in to naming a child, as Adam would see it, but Samuel's take on the approach, I thought, placed a larger burden on the children. Instead of naming your children according to characteristics we want them to have, give them a name which they in turn can try to live up to... It would be a mistake to name them for qualities we think they have, we might be wrong-so wrong. Maybe it would be good to give them a high mark to shoot at--A name to live up to, because wouldn't it be just as detrimental if the child fails living up to the high mark (264)?

Cain and Abel Revisited
I was glad to have this story repeated again at the close of Part II, but this time by Samuel. Lee's interjection about the greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears, couldn't have been more perfect in the presence of Adam. Samuel may have been successful in naming the Trask children and Adam is greatful for Samuel taking an interest, but I don't feel completely confident in spite of the evening, Adam will truly embrace what has taken place that evening. All I have to say is thank God for Lee.

I like the comment that Cain bore the mark not to destroy him but to save him What does this mean about Charles and Cathy's marks? I just realized that Cathy also starts with a C.
It applies to Charles as it did Cain. I saw Charles as the brother who ultimately did God's work tending to his fields and Adam the devil's work, sitting around with idle hands in a Cathy stupor.

Cathy, up until his point, no matter how evil, is still seen as a child of God...So maybe down the road she may have a little turning point? From what I understand of this book and Christianity, one does not have to live a Mother Theresa type life in order to be in God's good graces. You could be a person having lived a heinous lifestyle, but if at any given time this person sought after solace in the hands of God, they are absolved from any wrongdoing...They will spend time in hell, but eventually get to the golden gates at some point. There is good and evil in everybody; therefore, there has to be good in Cathy as well-I can see it in her...The good.


message 22: by Ami (last edited Mar 19, 2015 08:59PM) (new)

Ami Part III
Sarah wrote: "Part Three

There's so much to talk about on the Adam/Cathy side that I can't possibly fit it all in without sitting here for the rest of the day. I'm going to try to sum it up.

I think my favori..."


Sarah wrote: "Part Three

Yet another interesting section. I hadn't realized before that it's actually the Hamilton's story that I love the most. I'm going to go with some quotes because I absolutely love the ..."


Those Hamiltons indeed. I love these people with all of my heart. Except Will!
Oh, I really like him too (I like Will as well as the others)...He's a real King Midas and in spite of his prosperity, he always wants the best for his family; whether they see it that way or not.

You couldn't have said it better about the Hamiltons, I actually would rather this book been all about them and Lee quite honestly. Wouldn't mind throwing the Trasks by the way side, well,...Some of them.

Computer is about to die...Will be back to finish up

***Edit: Addition to Original Post***

Well I started Part III with a lump in my throat considering Una's passing, but more so because the passing of a child before his/her parents, without a doubt, would force a parent to question their own mortality. Samuel getting older and the tone of this section, well I knew the inevitable was on the horizon.This section in particular, I thought, was rather heavy handed with Hamilton/Steinbeck nostalgia...I loved every word in it.

Tom and Steinbeck
Tom visiting the Steinbeck family and leaving Beeman's peppermint gum under their pillows announcing to them his arrival was so sweet. For Steinbeck to remember this memory and continue to check under his pillow every morning for the rest of his life was so telling of Uncle Tom's influence and love.

What I found striking about this visit was the interaction between Tom and Mary, Steinbeck's sister, who was having a hard time fitting the role of the young girl she was...Finding, being a girl was inhibiting her want to be a tough little boy. Mary briefly endures this identity crisis, as many young girls do, realizing one day there was apparent compensation for being a girl (278). What I loved about this memory was how Steinbeck was able to write in such way I was transported to their household and literally able to see how it all unfolded...The gum underneath the pillows, the heartfelt discussion about becoming a boy, the outing with three and the carved toy Uncle Tom wittled out of wood for Mary. The description of the land where they went fishing didn't miss a beat, and I would say, rivaled the preliminary backdrop of the Salinas River Valley at the beginning of the story...It was lyrical, for me, I remember the smell of the hills, wild azalea and a very distant skunk and the sweet cloy of lupin and horse sweat on harness. I remember the sweeping lovely dance of high buzzards against the sky, and Tom looking up at them... reminiscent of something out of a Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez book (281).

Did you think it was interesting subject matter for Steinbeck to be writing about Mary's brief identity crisis...He didn't write about it in a clumsy manner, he was very on point, and rather matter-of-fact about it-It was sweet, I thought.

Tom and Samuel
It was also here, I couldn't seem to shake, in spite of the beautiful nostalgic moments, there seems to be a black cloud hanging overhead? I couldn't put my finger on it at the time, and I thought maybe it didn't even exist, but it's something about Tom. There's something about Tom...I have no sound of his voice or words in my ears; he is dark and silent and hugely warm in my memory...He felt heavy and earthbound. As I felt Tom's darkness looming, Tom "felt his father's darkness" as he stood between Tom and the sun, and Samuel's shadow fell on him (282).

Samuel knew his son's quality and felt the potential of violence, and it frightened him, for Samuel had no violence...He had spurts of bravery but they were bracketed in battens of cowardice... (282). Tom is tortured, he writes poetry, he engages in frivolous sexcapades and then feels empty and remorse; it made me reevaluate the presence of Samuel since"he stood between Tom and the sun..." How impactful was that line for you? I also wondered, at the time, to whom Tom's poetry was shown, since it was only shown to one Hamilton.

Tom and Dessie
What a magnificent duo Tom and Dessie make. I know I've said I wish the whole book were about the Hamiltons, but I really wish it was all about Tom and Dessie instead of Adam and Charles. Upon her death and Tom's suicide in Chapter 33, the suicide was very indicative of his tortured soul. As sad as it is to read about, I found it to be fitting for Tom.

As an aside, I love the mentioning of Tom writing his mother a last letter on "Crane's Linen Lawn" stationary...I've used Crane's all my life. I love their goods.

Dessie married a man who since being married to him depleted her of any joy, and Una too married a man who's passions also affected a female Hamilton in an averse manner...Is there something here, or am I grasping at straws?

We end Chapter 23 with by far the worst thing a man can say to his son when Samuel decides to take a little vacation with Liza visiting family, and says to Tom...You will please hold this in your dark secret place, nor tell any of your brothers and sister-I know why I'm going-and, Tom, I know where I'm going, and I am content (291). Another sense of foreboding in Chapter 23, but I felt absolute grief in Chapter 24 in regards to Samuel and Liza leaving the farm ...He made formal calls on all his neighbors...And when he drove away from his old friends they knew they would not see him again. He took to gazing at the mountains and the trees... Sarah, didn't this happen too fast...I knew it was coming, but I guess I didn't prepare-I was left heartbroken. I didn't want to read about him riding off into the moonlight so soon. I wanted to read about Samuel till the end...

Trask Grandchildren, Aron and Caleb
At this point, the kids are 10 years of age...Cal and his brother. It made me think why the "the brother" is referred to as he is an not by name? I still find Adam hard and curtained, essentially unchanged since we last saw him at the naming of his children with Samuel and Lee. Samuel has had very prolific statements for Adam to heed, but when he asks Adam, Do you take pride in your hurt...Does it make you seem large and tragic...Maybe you're playing a part on a great stage with only yourself as the audience, in regards to still remaining as he was to be absolutely brilliant. He parts with these glorious words in "his" last act with Adam...It was beautiful, damnit (295).


message 23: by Ami (last edited Mar 21, 2015 03:51PM) (new)

Ami Part III Cont'd

Sarah wrote: "Part Three

There's so much to talk about on the Adam/Cathy side that I can't possibly fit it all in without sitting here for the rest of the day. I'm going to try to sum it up.

I think my favori..."


Later he comments that there's a part of her missing. Steinbeck seems to be exploring the idea that good and evil can't understand each other, and maybe even that we are the way we are. There's kind of an idea here that good and evil is born rather than learned.
Yes, I completely agree with you in that good and evil are instincts we're born with. Now Cathy, Charles, and Caleb, have been alluded to as being evil, but the difference between Cathy and Charles in comparison to Caleb is that the former two lack the ability to contain their evil-They allow it to overtake them. Caleb on the other hand, is found praying "to not be mean," he is aware of his evil and he makes attempts to control it.

The discussion between Adam, Samuel and Lee regarding the Hebrew word timshel also sheds light on this ability of the self to make a choice...Timshel-thou mayest-that gives a choice...That says the way is open. That throws it right back on man. For if 'thou mayest-'it is also true 'Though mayest not' (303). The bottom line, it's a choice one makes to either be good, or evil.

And then we have Cal and Aron. Some of this seems like a repeat of Charles and Adam but I always feel that Cal has a little more good in him than Charles and that Aron is actually sort of angelic.
What's interesting about to me about Charles and Adam vs Caleb and Aron, is that good and evil is resonated as Charles being evil and Adam being good; however, between Aron and Caleb, I didn't necessarily perceive Caleb as being the evil brother. Aron was blonde, had a pleasant disposition, walked the straight and narrow, people liked him, but I found him to be very flawed and impulsive too. Caleb is described as dark and mysterious, brooding, he walks the streets till the early morning like Cain did when banished to wander the earth, Caleb sees the influence of his mother's blood in him and wants to deny its power over him, he's disliked by society, he's so much more intuitive than Aron and intelligent beyond measure. Sure, all the signs point towards him being evil, but I also think this is society placing age old stigmas (light -good, dark-bad) on these two brothers.

Adam goes through so much effort to be ready to congratulate him and then Aron is too full of his own selfish arrogance to even bother to tell him. He's still ashamed over the lettuce incident.
Yes, my thoughts exactly. Aron to me is the worst type of person...One of those people who hides real feelings knowing they are hideous in nature and portraying himself as the moral and virtuous soul, when in reality he's just as decrepit. He then begins to hide behind the cloth, and I absolutely can't stand people or characters in books who hide their bad behavior behind religion.

I've always had the impression that Charles is Cal's father and Adam is Aron's. I don't know that it ever confirms that though.
Well, that's interesting. See, I don't remember when Adam and Cathy consummated their marriage; I only know of the indiscretion between Charles and Cathy.

The next interesting interaction between them is when Adam goes to tell Cathy about the money Charles left her.
I was really excited by the dynamics between the two at their meeting with one another, but I have to admit, I didn't have enough faith in Adam to be as resilient as he was...I really thought he would falter and succumb to Cathy's witchy wiles. It did turn my stomach to learn that one day Cal was going to run away and find her. When she told Adam he wasn't going to be rid of her as he thought, I really thought she would insert herself into making his life a living hell by taking advantage of Cal.

Lee's story about his mother is so horribly sad. I can't imagine knowing about it.
In spite of all the tragedy we have read about, the plight of Lee's parents was the most difficult to read about so far; an escape plan goes wrong, father's leg getting crushed and rebroken soon after, and of course, the birth of Lee under such devastating circumstances- I've never read anything so horrendous. Steinbeck, again, makes another woman in labor sound like a wounded animal, or something. Although, the situation for Lee's parents was appalling, Steinbeck has this way of dulling the edges slightly so we can comprehend the events by taking the emotion out of the scenario and focusing on the facts at hand. He doesn't delude us into thinking it wasn't a heartfelt event, but writes it such that the emotions do not overpower the reality; regardless of how intertwined they are with one another-It was terrible. The Chinese, during this time, with the building of the railroads and gold mining, were at the mercy of the people who brought them here to work. What's sad is the generations born in this new country were thought of as strangers in their native land due to assimilation no matter how much culture they inhabited...It's sad, they belong nowhere, and instead begin to create new lives and homes for themselves just like Lee did.

Charles
Of all things, I was not expecting Charles to have died so soon either. What I'm troubled by is why he left his fortune to both Adam and Cathy-A slap in the face of Adam, or no?


message 24: by Ami (last edited Mar 21, 2015 03:50PM) (new)

Ami Sarah wrote: "Chapters 34-45

In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are short cuts to love. When a ma..."

What a great quote to sum up this section as I felt Chapter 34 was essentially about love and hate and a reevaluation of the concept money and happiness...Having the former does not necessarily promote the fruition of the other. The idea of a man dying without being properly loved during a lifetime, "when he dies, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, his life must be a failure to him and dying a cold horror" (414). It all boils down to love...It's so simple and yet complex at the same time (so very cliche, I know...Sorry!). I think it also reemphasizes the inherent qualities of good and evil not having such clear distinctions.

Lee
Could there be a more humble, and loving servant? I felt in Chapter 35, the children seemed untouched by Lee's departure, yet it was Lee's reasoning for their behavior which left me speechless; If they pretended sorrow they'd be liars. It doesn't mean anything to them. Maybe they'll think of me sometimes-privately. I don't want them to be sad. I hope I'm not so small-souled as to take satisfaction in being missed (417). I was really confused by this section, Sarah. On one hand, the children could have been unfazed because Aron knew Lee would be back, but I'm also a little baffled by Lee's attachment to the Trasks; especially when he says There's nothing sadder to me than associations held together by nothing but the glue of postage stamps. After this type of statement, I was hopeful for him to turn an new leaf in SFO; but instead Lee comes back to the Trasks because he was "lonesome..." Is there a genuine love of Lee for the Trasks? Were you surprised Lee came back?

Two things Here: One, I always forget how young children's grasp of reality can be so surreal i.e. Aron knowing Lee would be back and his thoughts about what Lee would do without them. Two, lonely Lee really was without the Trasks.

Adam
The decision to move to Salinas, I thought while reading, was a recipe for disaster because it brought Cal closer to Cathy. However, at the same time, I was glad to know he all of sudden had this resurgence in life; especially after his meeting with Cathy, he seemed solid.

Cal
How astute is this kid...I loved reading about his scheme for "eventually" not being picked on to answer questions by the teacher. Wasn't that funny? I agree with you about his brilliance.

Aron
The dynamics between Abra and Aron while role playing, first as husband and wife but then as mother and son was so innocent and sweet, I thought. I can imagine growing up without a mother, a father living in the house but still absent from your life, and being taken care of by Lee essentially a surrogate parent, could only fulfill him to a certain extent. I think both boys suffer because of this, actually.

Aron's unwavering focus scares me, it scares me more than all the evils Cal is presumed to exemplify. When Cal tells Aron about Cathy, it is understandable for him to feel deceived by his only living parent (supposedly), but he makes the decision to kill his father, not literally but along the lines of eliminating Adam from his life. Your example of how he doesn't share his graduating early with Adam broke my heart too-It was asinine of him. With this in mind, he proceeds to cut out Adam from most aspects of his life and their relationship begins to suffer. Another example of this hyper focus is Aron's pursuing of the ministry for his future career, which is fine, it's a noble profession, but he takes it to a whole other level with wanting to remain celibate. He's becoming sanctimonious and making these very strict promises for himself not even thinking about how these serious decisions would affect Abra. Speaking of Abra, I'm beginning to like her; before, she was a little creepy as a kid (sorry, I don't ever like saying anything disparaging about children, but there was a witchy aspect about her). I'm glad she's so level headed.

After Aron's vow of celibacy, I was of the impression Anna and Cal would end up having some type of encounter with one another but when Cal said, I bet I could make enough money on the ranch... I then thought history would repeat itself for Cal and Aron, similar to the way Charles and Adam endured life with Cathy...Abra would be a wedge, but not a sinister one (459).

Cathy/Kate
Cathy obviously fears her son Cal and her thoughts about him are rather vicious...I sometimes forget who Cathy is because I hone in on the subtleties of goodness that can be seen in her. She has the inability to shield her evil, but there is good in her as well. She doesn't know when to let dead dogs lay, that's for sure.

What's interesting in this part is the parallel between the interactions of Joe and Kate and Kate and Faye. In both cases one has a plan to do the other in. Do you think Kate senses this in the least bit?


message 25: by Ami (last edited Mar 21, 2015 04:40PM) (new)

Ami Sarah wrote: "Chapters 46-End

One humorous thing in this book is when Steinbeck is talking about how Americans picked up a lot of fashion devices from the British. Then he goes on to say that we would never pi..."

Then Adam seemed to grow until he filled one side of the room. His face was stern and his blue eyes sharp and penetrating. Did you think of God when you read this? It's interesting because there are two rounds of these boys. Charles and Adam seem to be Cain and Abel but then who is God in that situation?
I did think of God here, but I always equated it to be Lee. I guess the takeaway would be that God exists in us all as does Satan, right...If one exists, then the other must also? The one who prevails within you is the one you give your allegiance to. We talked about Cyrus Trask being a possible God/Father figure for Charles and Adam, but I don't think we concluded he was confidently in a previous post.

One humorous thing in this book is when Steinbeck is talking about how Americans picked up a lot of fashion devices from the British.
This is actually what I really liked about this novel, a chapter in each part discussing what was happening in the world, country and how it affected Salinas society. We get the full spectrum view.

So in this section we see a lot more of Cal and Aron, as well as Adam. Their personalities that is. It was heartbreaking that Cal worked so hard to make that money for Adam and he just rejected it. And poor Cal is overcome with jealousy even though he's fighting it...It's an insightful moment though, when Cal realizes that Adam loves Aron best because Aron looks like Cathy.
What I wondered most about this is why Adam would react like this knowing Cyrus behaved in the same manner with him and how it affected Charles...Did he forget, or was he bewitched by Cathy? I thought he was over her?

I really like Abra when she's with Cal. I didn't like her as a child and I didn't really like her when she was with Aron. But she's good with Cal.
I completely agree, but didn't their getting together happen a little too fast? I knew something like this would happen, I didn't think it would happen with her. Also, why was it so important to discuss her father's hiding because he had embezzled...Did I miss the association, or the reasoning behind it?

Lee of course is as loveable as always. I wondered in this section if Lee is actually meant to represent knowledge. The knowledge of good and evil that Adam and Eve gained when they ate the fruit. He always seems to strike a middle path and see both sides of things. He fights so hard for Cal and I love him for that.
I think Lee was always meant to represent light and therefore an Angel, the antithesis of Cathy. I thought he was God-like earlier, but I'm thinking to end with he was Angelic instead. He was the light in the Trask house that would have remained in darkness without him. What I adored was his relationship with Abra, they ended up being kindred spirits to me. I think he too liked the growing relationship between Cal and Abra as well, being the kindred spirits they were (Lee and Abra), she too would be able to further shed light on the dark and brooding Cal in Lee's absence. By the way, I thought it was Lee's death we would be reading about in the end instead of Aron's and Adam's tragedy.

Cal's one decision to tell Aron the truth about their mother is mean, and I understand it comes out of jealousy, but my God, what horrible consequences. So many awful things happen because of it. That moment that Adam gives his blessing timshel is really wonderful and very powerful.
Even though Cal didn't murder Aron literally with his own two hands, he did set the motion for Aron's demise...Didn't he? I'm truly very saddened for Adam and the tragic circumstances under which he will continue to live...I don't think he died, do you?

Final Thoughts
I really enjoyed reading this, what a great allegorical book! I love Steinbeck's writing style, there's so much texture and expository talk (which critics didn't like at the time). Steinbeck has a real pulse on the time period as I'm sure you know; marriage was at an all time high in the mid-to late 40's, birth rates were through the roof, WWII, and the Kinsey Report had just been published. Facets of each are, as if it were a second nature to him because these same characteristics can be seen in the books written by him I mention below (at least in the one's I have read, is what I mean), woven into the narrative rendering a beautifully written story about more than just good and evil.

I can't believe I have forgotten him since I last read The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men in high school, both of which I really liked and loved. I think it's time to read Cannery Row, or Tortilla Flat. I'm going to have to say, he's one of my favorite authors.


message 26: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Ooh! We should add The Pearl to our list. It's short, 50-100 pages maybe and you will love it. Cannery Row is also good, although I think a bit more humorous.

Anyway, I'll respond mite tomorrow but I want to add that I don't actually think Cal is meant to be evil. I think he represents humanity in all of its flawed, but striving beauty.


message 27: by Sarah (new)

Sarah As of Chapter 22, I didn't understand why Samuel was so involved with Adam and his well-being. He took so much more responsibility than necessary of neighbor...Didn't you think? Samuel is, as you said, such a kind and altruistic character, it would be unheard of he didn't take an interest Adam...Right?

I agree that he's intrigued. Samuel loves life and he loves a puzzle. Cathy, Adam, Lee... they're all life wrapped up in a puzzle.

because wouldn't it be just as detrimental if the child fails living up to the high mark (264)?

I suppose it could be but I think this is like the idea of reaching for the stars. Even if you don't quite get there, you're farther up than if you had never tried.

You could be a person having lived a heinous lifestyle, but if at any given time this person sought after solace in the hands of God, they are absolved from any wrongdoing...

This got me thinking. Different Christian faiths have different beliefs but I believe the Hamiltons were Presbyterian. I believe Presbyterians have this strange (to me) belief that when people are born they're marked for either heaven or hell. Their form of reassurance is to say that people who are intended for heaven anyway are drawn to the church. I could use to research that particular Protestant faith a bit more because I don't know enough.

What I loved about this memory was how Steinbeck was able to write in such way I was transported to their household and literally able to see how it all unfolded...The gum underneath the pillows, the heartfelt discussion about becoming a boy, the outing with three and the carved toy Uncle Tom wittled out of wood for Mary

I agree :)


message 28: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Dessie married a man who since being married to him depleted her of any joy, and Una too married a man who's passions also affected a female Hamilton in an averse manner...Is there something here, or am I grasping at straws?

I took all of this to be strictly auto-biographical so I don't know.

I wanted to read about Samuel till the end...

I know. He's really a wonderful and fascinating man.

He then begins to hide behind the cloth, and I absolutely can't stand people or characters in books who hide their bad behavior behind religion.

No kidding. (holding back rant holding back rant)

Well, that's interesting. See, I don't remember when Adam and Cathy consummated their marriage; I only know of the indiscretion between Charles and Cathy

When Adam sees her once, I think it's the time that he walks away light-hearted, she says something to him about "How many times did I let you touch me". Then she goes on to mention the incident with him drinking her tea and that she slept with Charles that night. From these interactions I think she must have slept with both one time. That's what I got out of it.

Of all things, I was not expecting Charles to have died so soon either. What I'm troubled by is why he left his fortune to both Adam and Cathy-A slap in the face of Adam, or no?

I thought that Charles cared for her a bit by the time that she left, if only because she was the first person that was familiar in a like-to-like way.


message 29: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Could there be a more humble, and loving servant?
Lee is probably one of my favorite characters in all of literature. He's really a wonderful man.

I was really confused by this section, Sarah. On one hand, the children could have been unfazed because Aron knew Lee would be back, but I'm also a little baffled by Lee's attachment to the Trasks

I didn't think it was surprising. He raised the boys and was the heart and soul of the family. You can't invest that much time and love in a family and not grow attached. As for the Trasks attachment to him, I definitely think that Cal is attached to him, as well as Adam. Aron seems a bit too narcissistic to care too much. I think Lee takes on the role of mother and wife to this family.

The funny thing is that I was remembering this scene as though Lee went away for awhile and had his bookstore and then came back in a year or so. I have such an image of him in that bookstore. Lee is insightful though, so if he were real, I would think that he would understand himself well.

How astute is this kid...I loved reading about his scheme for "eventually" not being picked on to answer questions by the teacher.

Cal is an absolute genius and I loved every second of this. I also loved their dedication to the plan and the execution... when they didn't actually need to bother because they learned so easily. Cal has a real genius for figuring out how people tick. I loved this moment. And the teacher was just so confused.

Speaking of Abra, I'm beginning to like her; before, she was a little creepy as a kid

She was very calculating. I didn't like her either.

What's interesting in this part is the parallel between the interactions of Joe and Kate and Kate and Faye. In both cases one has a plan to do the other in. Do you think Kate senses this in the least bit?

I think Kate feels vulnerable and I think she doesn't like it. I don't know if it goes into conscious thought.

I did think of God here, but I always equated it to be Lee. I guess the takeaway would be that God exists in us all as does Satan, right...If one exists, then the other must also?

I don't think there's a strong God figure in this book. As for Lee, I equate him to knowledge. Maybe even the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil itself. I'm not sure, I just think that he can show people both paths, and then he bows his head and hides his hands as a modern day symbol of wisdom.

What I wondered most about this is why Adam would react like this knowing Cyrus behaved in the same manner with him and how it affected Charles...Did he forget, or was he bewitched by Cathy?

Do you think it's because he's come to some conclusion about his father's money? Because to him Cal stole this money from the farmers who did the work. It's a simplistic view, but if you were already sensitive to the subject then maybe it makes sense?

I completely agree, but didn't their getting together happen a little too fast?

I think it was a long time coming. She has to have felt such relief once Aron was gone. And Aron had already pretty much walked away from her in favor of the church.

What I adored was his relationship with Abra, they ended up being kindred spirits to me

That moment when he blurts out that he wishes she were his daughter? I'm so glad she said "Me too".

Even though Cal didn't murder Aron literally with his own two hands, he did set the motion for Aron's demise...Didn't he?

I don't, actually. He did a cruel thing but he had no way of knowing that Aron would join the army. Even if he had known that, he couldn't possibly have foreseen that Aron would die. That's like pinching someone's arm and it falls off. It's such a crazy string or randomness.

I don't think he died, do you?

No, I thought he fainted. Something along those lines.


message 30: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Did you think it was interesting that Cathy had a marriage certificate in her safe deposit box?


message 31: by Ami (new)

Ami Sarah wrote: "Did you think it was interesting that Cathy had a marriage certificate in her safe deposit box?"

Sarah wrote: "Could there be a more humble, and loving servant?
Lee is probably one of my favorite characters in all of literature. He's really a wonderful man.

I was really confused by this section, Sarah. On..."


Do you think it's because he's come to some conclusion about his father's money? Because to him Cal stole this money from the farmers who did the work. It's a simplistic view, but if you were already sensitive to the subject then maybe it makes sense?
Well, this must be it. It would make it full circle then wouldn't it? I don't think it's simplistic at all, makes perfect sense too.

Did you think it was interesting that Cathy had a marriage certificate in her safe deposit box?
No, not at all; in fact, I found it to be very fitting. I think she always knew their paths would cross at some point. She didn't know if it would be used as a means for insurance, or blackmail...It is very Kathy/Cathy, after all?

This got me thinking. Different Christian faiths have different beliefs but I believe the Hamiltons were Presbyterian. I believe Presbyterians have this strange (to me) belief that when people are born they're marked for either heaven or hell.
This is a good point, and one I forgot about, actually. Were the Trask's also Protestant?


message 32: by Sarah (new)

Sarah From what I know all non-Catholic Christian faiths are Protestant. It just splintered into many faiths, including Presbyterian.

I hadn't thought of it that way with Cathy. I was thinking the certificate was sentimental.


message 33: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Except Orthodox faiths. Those are not Protestant.


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