East of Eden

Reply Mon 23 Mar, 2009 04:18 am
East of Eden
John Steinbeck
ISBN: 978-0-14-200423-4
Publisher: The Penguin Group

OVERVIEW: I'm really glad I picked up this book. It's a story about two families; their adventures, trials and tribulations as they settled the Salinas valley in California in the early 20th century. It gets up close and personal with the Hamiltons (Samuel, namely) and the Trasks (Adam, mainly). These people are ordinary, but what happens with them are events that range from the banal to the catastrophic. We learn evil through Cathy, dedication through Abra, conflict through Cal and how life can whisk one on; from birth to death, through Adam. Though considered a 'classic'; it's a meandering, relaxing read without convoluted or arcane language and colorful descriptions. It is hefty (598 pages at medium text, large paperback), but don't let that scare you off - this is good bedside reading.


  • Steinbeck's a master with language; complex sentences that make sense - a rarity
  • Scene setting, description of surroundings and thoughts are well-articulated; no crapola and not too long nor too short
  • A myriad of telling anecdotes on culture, human behavior and morals - all couched without pretentiousness or too much drama
  • Interesting Story Lines: With few exceptions, most of the 'shifts' were salient to the book's overall tone
  • Lee Rocks


  • Some conversations had a 'hook', where the reader knows something revealing has been said or taken place; yet this reader felt confused in a few places. I'll list this as a 'con', but accept it may be of my own making.
  • While this book was based on characters from his own ancestry, if you have issues with 'embellished reality' and its ego-basis, you'll want to look past this. I had to a few times.
  • Key relationships in this story are candid, open and honest; some of feel 'over-forced'; so much so, that I found myself saying, "Oh c'mon guys, just go get a room and get it over with".


  • In-character views of Native Americans, on the frontier, at the turn of the century (pp 7)
  • Granpa Hamilton and Life on the Range (tough old coot) (pp 11)
  • Hurt turns to Rage; brother to brother (pp 23)
  • The Wanderer-Vagabond of the 1890's; man's inhumanity to man (pp 55)
  • 'Monstrosities' in human form - contrasted with relative behavioral norms (pp 71)
  • Catherine and the Whoremaster (pp 89)
  • Olive's Plane Flight (pp 151)
  • Career as a Servant (pp 163)
  • Birth of the Trask Babies (pp 189)
  • Confrontation with the new Whoremaster (pp 317)
  • Chinese Workers on the Railroad; Servitude and the Birth of Lee (pp 357)
  • Death and Suicide/ Dess and Tom (pp 401)
  • Good, Evil, War and Bigotry (pp 411)

NOTABLE QUOTES:[INDENT] "I don't know what directed his steps toward the Salinsas Valley. It was an unlikely place for a man from a green country to come to, but he came about thirty years before the turn of the century and he brought with him his tiny Irish wife, a tight hard little woman humorless as a chicken. She had a dour Presbyterian mind and a code of morals that pinned down and beat the brains out of nearly everything that was pleasant to do."

"It is the dull eventless times that have no duration whatever. A time splashed with interest, wounded with tragedy, crevassed with joy - that's the time that seems long in the memory. And this is right when you think about it. Eventlessness has no posts to drape duration on. From nothing to nothing is no time at all."

"As a child may be born without an arm, so one may be born without kindness or the potential for conscience... Sometimes when we are little we imagine how it would be to have wings, but there is no reason to suppose it is the same feeling birds have. No, to a monster the norm must seem monstrous, since everyone is normal to himself. To the inner monster it must be even more obscure, since he has no visible thing to compare with others. To a man born without conscience, a soul-stricken man must seem ridiculous. To a criminal, honesty is foolish. You must not forget that a monster is only a variation, and that to a monster the norm is monstrous."



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Jay phil
Reply Sun 19 Apr, 2009 04:28 pm
Also, this book seems to be an indepth look at the question of determinism and free will, using the first couple of chapters of Genesis for a structural backdrop.

Timshel - "thou mayest"
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Reply Sun 19 Apr, 2009 05:43 pm
"West of Eden" was excellent also!
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