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Closely allied to the timshel theme, “Thou mayest rule over sin,” is this corollary and necessary metaphysical exploration that seeks to discover what goodness is and what evil is. The enormous wickedness of Cathy/Kate has not endured, for in Steinbeck’s view, overwhelming as evil may seem sometimes, it ultimately proves empty and transitory. For in this final scene Steinbeck once more shares a vision with the psychiatrist Frankl, who tells of its experience of communing with his wife during his imprisonment in the Nazi death camps, not knowing whether she was alive or dead: Had I known then that my wife was dead, I think that I would still have given myself, undisturbed by that knowledge, to the contemplation of her image, and that my mental conversation with her would have been just as vivid and just as satisfying. His first idea for the title of the novel was “Canable.” Then he thought of “Cain Sign” before settling on East of Eden, which is itself taken from the Cain and Abel story. Ditsky’s position is clear; he is dissatisfied with prevailing wisdom about Steinbeck and about East of Eden and, like French and other critics who question Steinbeck’s naturalism, feels that aspects of Steinbeck’s art are as yet unexplored. The question of naturalism and other strong disagreements with previous Steinbeck criticism figure prominently in Karen J. Hopkins’ “Steinbeck’s East of Eden: A Defense.” Hopkins echoes Ditsky’s commentary about “cookie cutter criticism” when she notes “that most critics who read East of Eden expect it to live up to some standard they’ve set, either for the novel as a genre, or for Steinbeck in particular, especially the Steinbeck of The Grapes of Wrath” (63). Most of DeMott’s premise hinges upon his discussion of the “interior life” of certain characters East of Eden and Winter of Our Discontent (a more detailed analysis of this argument follows here in discussion of changing critical reactions toward Steinbeck’s characters such as Kate/Cathy). . The Story of Cain and Abel. The false world in which he tried to wall himself off from the real one cannot stand the light of real experience. 14, No. Obviously, this work is a landmark in that it is the first article in a critical collection or journal which openly praises East of Eden. After all, even Kate herself, who glories in her brothel, is finally reduced to suicide and nothingness, as though “she had never been.”. His key was the Hebrew word timshel. Against this backdrop, symbolic of the good and evil poles between which human beings gravitate, Steinbeck sets the history of “the long Salinas Valley,” beginning with a nondescript tribe of Indians, then Spaniards who were greedy “for gold or God,” and finally Americans, who were even “more greedy because there were more of them”—who “took the lands, remade the laws to make their titles good.”. Although it is risky to use a term such as “consensus” in connection with any Steinbeck novel, one might say that two of the most recent and influential works concerning Steinbeck have reached some sort of consensus in Steinbeck’s naturalism. Certainly Steinbeck was concerned about how all the parts of the story fit— especially the cause and the effect of Cain’s rejection. . As he finished the chapter establishing his thesis, a very difficult section to write, he said with relief, “I could have put it in a kind of an essay but I think it was better to let it come out of these three” [Adam, Lee, and Samuel] (JN, p. 105). . Concerned with both the peace of Adam’s own soul and the future of his troubled son Cal, Lee reminds Adam that “Cal will marry and his children will be the only remnant left of you.” Cal and his future wife Abra, therefore, show the continuity of generations. Steinbeck opens the novel by attempting to weave together in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden Claire Warnick Department of Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature, BYU Master of Arts In recent years, the concept of monstrosity has received renewed attention by literary critics. Thus we get no repetition but an extension of Part I” (JN, p. 128). of the Chinese houseboy Lee, which has become the particular target of academic sarcasm. Adam, for example, never comes close to seeing Cathy as she really is. He had made Samuel confront Adam with the truth of Cathy’s perversion; and Adam had proved his strength. . to Fielding’s ‘Tom Jones,’ aren’t coherent or artistically graceful” (“‘East of Eden’ of both impassioned defenses and denunciations of the novel’s merits. Jan 10, 2017 - This study guide and infographic for John Steinbeck's East of Eden offer summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. . With Lee’s admonition and encouragement, Adam summons the strength to speak one final word of forgiveness, instruction, and inspiration to Cal: the Hebrew word Timshel, translated as “Thou mayest,” from God’s assurance to Cain in Genesis that he has the power to triumph over evil. . In this book Steinbeck used his old home as a setting to show his audience his childhood experience. success. Furthermore, “Steinbeck’s own lack of ego made it easier for him to accept the relative unimportance of man and turn instead to a calm and even joyful realization of man’s interdependence with the whole of nature.” The works of other naturalistic writers constitute something of a lament; Steinbeck accepted this view of the universe. The narrator of East of Eden himself is somewhat confounded by Cathy, as he struggles to understand her and revises his opinion of her throughout the novel. East of Eden - Literary Analysis - Part Three. Representative of Steinbeck’s optimistic belief in the human power of transcendence, Lee, Cal, and Abra surround the dying Adam. . We’ve discounted annual subscriptions by 50% for COVID-19 relief—Join Now! Put another way, “Man, enjoying a narrow and therefore false security in his ability to decipher and understand his surroundings, is suddenly destroyed or nearly destroyed by the intrusion of facts that imagination has refused to acknowledge” (68). . . But they need to relate to the world without losing their individuality. Perhaps overstating his beliefs resulted from too much planning and from overwhelming intentions—hence the misdemeanors in tone. That is, however wicked, a person may have some redeeming quality— even the Cathy/Kates of this world. . When his work became less overtly naturalistic, his reputation declined drastically. I’ve given her an untruth, a counterfeit, and I’ve saved the best for those dark sweet hours,”. . In any case, Cathy is a symbol of the human evil that will always be present in the world, and her loss of power over Adam … . But a chapter standing too strongly alone in East of Eden has often controlled interpretations of the book. techniques. . Morse was not alone in his criticism, as others also suggested that Steinbeck’s So it is that the mysterious processes of life place Charles (a Cain character) in close proximity to Adam (an Abel character) and through their stormy interaction Adam is forced to seek his own destiny, away from his brother. It is all there—the start, the beginning. “One of the most important mistranslations in the Old Testament” surrounds timshel, he said. Steinbeck wrote to a friend What distinguishes Steinbeck’s particular brand of naturalism was that “he was the only major writer within the American tradition of naturalism who reacted to science in a positive way, embraced a scientific perception of the universe with enthusiasm, and who knew something about science” (244). Though Steinbeck wrote East of Eden, his “big book” (JN, p. 33), with a strong sense of purpose, critics have found it formless; and though he recorded his ideas about it daily, critics have been vague about his theme. “I have finally I think found a key to the story” (JN, p. 104). Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist imprisoned in Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps during World War II, emerged from his experiences with an optimistic belief in the capacity of human beings to withstand evil even in the face of the most monstrous evils in human history. John Steinbeck East Of Eden Analysis. Steinbeck wants “the whole book illuminated by the discussion,” which is not “just a discussion of Biblical lore,” but uses “the Biblical story as a measure of ourselves” (JN, pp. Achieving his goal the next day he exulted, “I have never been more excited in my life about a chapter than I have been in this one which is just now concluding [the present Chapters 23 and 24]. The issue of whether or not Steinbeck “declined” is no longer argued and, while the question has never been resolved, it has been replaced by new and perhaps more productive studies which examine the wealth of the Steinbeck canon. 2. The painstaking deliberations about timshel show the same great concern with language and medieval texts he later demonstrated in The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights. Olive’s altruism and courage during the occasion leading up to her ride in the Army airplane further distances her from Cathy. Let me alone—let me think!’ ” Not the kind of artist he called “hard boiled,” Steinbeck believed there is one purpose in writing . Of course, there is nothing wrong with this, but Aron takes it to excess. . She did not want her daughter to be a whore.” In his reductive statement, “A whore is a whore,” the sheriff denies their personhood—seeing them as objects to be used, not as human beings with intelligence, feelings, and potential for anything higher than prostitution. In his “Introduction,” Warren French divides Steinbeck’s work into two distinctive categories: the “Naturalistic” works and the “Dramas of Consciousness,” placing both The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden in the latter category. DeMott backs away from his somewhat radical suggestion in the last sentence of his essay by saying, “It is time, I suggest, to recognize Steinbeck’s adherence not only to the tradition of mimetic or empirical writing, but to the larger and infinitely more exciting tradition of Romantic fictionalizing” (99); apparently Steinbeck used not only naturalistic elements but other elements as well. Benson notes in his biography of Steinbeck: Several of those aspects that had aroused the most criticism became, in an odd twist, It is no accident that over and over in Journal of a Novel he concludes a letter to Covici with this phrase: “I will get to my knitting.” (211). It is Ditsky who labels much Steinbeck criticism “cookie cutter” (ix). This stain of one sort or another—this mark of Cain—all human beings share. He felt sure it would interest scholars and psychiatrists and provoke great argument and scholarly discussion (it did not). Instead, Timmerman finds in Steinbeck a “supernatural naturalism” and “a world which God has departed, like the dissipation of other ancient myths” (15). You’ve taken a contentious game and made an answer of it. It is unlikely that he conceived the condition of Eden as one of perpetual bliss, but rather one of perpetual striving, because wherever there is good, there is also evil. Steinbeck was preparing for Samuel Hamilton’s death as he said this, and for Samuel’s final meeting with Adam “packed with information both about the men and about the story” (JN, p. 114). In the King James version of the Bible God says to Cain, “thou shalt rule over” sin, making a promise. In the East of Eden, John Steinbeck uses a biblical metaphor to illustrate the innate good and evil that humans encounter. They may even commit suicide out of despair or guilt. Because the violent Cains are easiest to understand in East of Eden, people often see the Abel characters as simply “good.” Steinbeck shows their complexity in Adam. French finds three distinctive stages in the novelist’s naturalism. For instance, in a conversation with Kate, a whore named Eva becomes so jittery that “her mind went to the box in her dresser drawer where her hypodermic needle lay.”, Although he recognizes the momentary “release and joy for the body” for the male frequenter of brothels, Steinbeck also faithfully portrays the isolation, loneliness, darkness, and sorrow of the life of the whore. contribute little And although Benson does not suggest that East of Eden is Steinbeck’s best novel (in fact, he finds it seriously flawed), neither does he suggest that the work is without merit or reflects a “decline” in the novelist’s powers. During the writing of the first draft, he wrote a remarkable series of letters to his friend and editor Pascal Covici. Fromm concludes: If human freedom is established as freedom to, if man can realize his self fully and uncompromisingly, the fundamental cause for his asocial drives will have disappeared and only a sick and abnormal individual will be dangerous. And read the sixteenth verse to find it. . Character: We learn that Will Hamilton is a very harsh guy. These beliefs some critics label “Romantic,” or “sentimental.”, Steinbeck, however, is a kindred spirit of Viktor Frankl, whose work no responsible, thoughtful person would dare label sentimental. He idealizes her, projecting onto her an unreal image of sweetness that he never questions. In Adam’s courage to speak through his paralysis, in Lee’s faithful encouragement and support, in Cal and Abra’s love for each other and for Adam and Lee, the sting has been taken from death. He “probes the supernatural with typology and symbolism” (30). I think the quotation ‘And Cain etc.’ should be at the bottom of the title page. Despite this tiny speck showing the possibility of goodness—she is daydreaming after all—as Robert DeMott has pointed out, Cathy “embodies evil,” and she is written large purposefully in order to depict later the emptiness the nothingness, the void that is evil’s true nature. Rather than expressing the “theme of the individual’s struggle between good and evil, for even “the importance of the individual human soul,” the central chapters explain the causes of evil from a psychological point of view: evil comes from feelings of rejection. In existential terms, alienation is a loss of freedom. The consequences for Aron of his refusal to accept life in its wholeness—the ugliness as well as the beauty—are dire. He finds her house a picture of an anti-Eden. The gifts of Cain and Abel to their father and his rejection of one and acceptance of the other will I think mean a great deal to you but I wonder if it will be generally understood by other readers” (JN, p. 25). A dressing table near the bed had no bottle or vial on its ebony top, and its sheen was reflected in triple mirrors. . But many of the classical works of fiction, from ‘Don Quixote’ the Scripture on which our ethics, our art and poetry, and our relationships are built. Although it was probably not apparent in 1975, the concluding sentence of French’s essay marks an important step forward both in Steinbeck criticism and in the reevaluation of East of Eden: Apparently from his observation during and after World War II, he reached the conclusion that man must take responsibility for his actions and that man is capable—however reluctantly—of taking this responsibility. In God's intervening admonishment--actually Steinbeck's crucial rewriting of that event--which attempts to turn Cain from the murder he is contemplating, the novel proclaims the … -Eric W. Riddle, Weber State University, in Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature , vol. East of Eden is the story of two families, the Hamilton family and the Trask family, both of whom migrate to the Salinas Valley in California.The Hamiltons are a poor family living on dry, barren land, but Adam Trask and his wife Cathy Trask are rich from inheritance and live on a fertile and rich piece of land with a large quantity of water available. Abels are “good,” in that by personality, they are not inclined to be aggressive, but they can still experience alienation. or nothing to the central theme of the novel and [. Benson notes, overall, “[. Unlike Cathy, then, Liza is like the ideal woman portrayed in Proverbs 31, for the “heart of her husband” could safely trust in her. Steinbeck saw the Cain and Abel story as embodying the basis of all neuroses: “if you take the fall along with it, you have the total of the psychic troubles that can happen to a human” (JN, p. 104). As Olive spared no effort in trying to save her son John from death from pleural pneumonia when he was sixteen—asking for the prayers of the “Episcopalian minister” and the “Mother Superior and nuns,” and the “thought” of a distant Christian Science relative, as well as seeking out “every incantation, magic, and herbal formula, .

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