EAST OF EDEN

EAST OF EDEN

John Steinbeck

I would by lying if I didn’t tell you right out that Steinbeck is
one of my favorite writers. He’s a regional writer, which means that he
writes about the particular region he lives in, which is great as far
as I’m concerned, since he lived in Salinas California. His only
critics are prosaic and cruel minds. Anyone who could doubt the
subtlety and genius of this man’s work is, to a degree, inhuman. With
that in mind guess what I thought about this work, one of his last and
definitely his greatest. I fucking loved it.

This is what a professional, paid critic thought of it;

Novel by John Steinbeck, published in 1952. It is a symbolic recreation
of the biblical story of Cain and Abel woven into a history of
California’s Salinas Valley. With East of Eden Steinbeck hoped to
reclaim his standing as a major novelist, but his broad depictions of
good and evil come at the expense of subtlety in characterization and
plot and it was not a critical success. Spanning the period between the
American Civil War and the end of World War I, the novel highlights the
conflicts of two generations of brothers; the first being the kind,
gentle Adam Trask and his wild brother Charles. Adam eventually marries
Cathy Ames, an evil, manipulative, and beautiful prostitute; she
betrays him, joining Charles on the very night of their wedding. Later,
after giving birth to twin boys, she shoots Adam and leaves him to
return to her former profession. In the shadow of this heritage Adam
raises their sons, the fair-haired, winning, yet intractable Aron, and
the dark, clever Caleb. This second generation of brothers vie for
their father’s approval. In bitterness Caleb reveals the truth about
their mother to Aron, who then joins the army and is killed in France.

Do you see what I mean when I rail against literary critics now? Broad
depictions of good and evil? Reclaim his status? You would be lucky to
gather a tenth of his wit and insight into human nature in your
writing. Furthermore Cathy Ames is not a prostitute when he marries
her, as this simple-minded reviewer wrote, but one of the most complex
and evil women in the history of literature. She makes Sharon Stone’s
character in Casino look like a preacher’s daughter. This review also
glosses over both Lee, Adam’s intelligent Chinese servant that raises
the twins, and Samuel Hamilton, the greatest forefather of Salinas and
the intellectual force behind the novel. To me Samuel Hamilton is the
reason for reading this book. He gives you the insight into the
surrounding characters.

The truth is that you have to read the novel for yourself to see it’s
sublime radiance and linguistic splendor. Don’t let me or another
reviewer dissuade you from a true literary gem. Don’t let your high
school memories of Mice and Men or The Grapes of Wrath
or the butchered Hollywood version of this novel starring James Dean
that only features the end of the book, dissuade you from the glorious
experience of reading it. I promise when you are finished you will
thank me.

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