East of Eden by John SteinbeckIn his journal, Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck called East of Eden “the first book,” and indeed it has the primordial power and simplicity of myth. Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel.
Adam Trask came to California from the East to farm and raise his family on the new rich land. But the birth of his twins, Cal and Aaron, brings his wife to the brink of madness, and Adam is left alone to raise his boys to manhood. One boy thrives nurtured by the love of all those around him; the other grows up in loneliness enveloped by a mysterious darkness.
First published in 1952, East of Eden is the work in which Steinbeck created his most mesmerizing characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of loves absence. A masterpiece of Steinbecks later years, East of Eden is a powerful and vastly ambitious novel that is at once a family saga and a modern retelling of the Book of Genesis.
What I Think of "East of Eden" [REVIEW]
Steinbeck in the Schools
He has written about mice and men , and some wrathful grapes , but in his novel East of Eden , John Steinbeck sets his sights a little higher and takes on the Book of Genesis. That's right—our man Steinbeck might have been writing in and based his story during that awkward time when the 19th century became the 20th, but his subject matter comes from way further back. But even though Steinbeck stepped into religious territory, Easy of Eden is still chock full of all the classic Steinbeck ingredients… by which we mean that it takes place in California's Central Valley. But let's talk plot. You've probably already got this: Adam and Even live in the Garden of Eden, get expelled thanks to Eve's snake-dealing shenanigans, are exiled, have two sons named Cain and Abel, Cain kills Abel when God likes Abel's gift better, and then Cain is forced to wander the land with a mark on him so that people don't just up and murder him. Tale as old as time and we've heard it all before, right? Except that East of Eden shakes things up a little bit, and by a little bit, we mean that it changes around everything.
In Part One, Steinbeck introduces the three families whose destinies are uniquely intertwined in the novel: the Hamiltons, the Trasks, and to a lesser degree, the Ames. Steinbeck introduces the Hamiltons first, who are unique mixture of a fictionalized and accurate portrayal of his own family. Most of Part One is devoted to providing the history of the fictionalized Adam Trask and his family. Steinbeck then introduces his grandparents, Samuel and Liza Hamilton. They are immigrants from Northern Ireland who settled outside of King City around By this time, much of the green, fertile land was already taken.
East of Eden , novel by John Steinbeck , published in 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.
Often described as Steinbeck's most ambitious novel, East of Eden brings to life the intricate details of two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons, and their interwoven stories. Steinbeck wanted to describe the Salinas Valley for them in detail: the sights, sounds, smells, and colors. The Hamilton family in the novel is said to be based on the real-life family of Samuel Hamilton, Steinbeck's maternal grandfather. According to his third and last wife, Elaine , Steinbeck considered it his magnum opus. The story is primarily set in the Salinas Valley, California, between the beginning of the twentieth century and the end of World War I, though some chapters are set in Connecticut and Massachusetts , and the story goes as far back as the American Civil War. In the beginning of East of Eden , before introducing his characters, Steinbeck carefully establishes the setting with a description of the Salinas Valley in Central California. Then he outlines the story of the warmhearted inventor and farmer Samuel Hamilton and his wife Liza, immigrants from Ireland.