10 Books to Read: "East of Eden"

BY: JULIE CHUNG 

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Although "The Grapes of Wrath" is one of John Steinbeck’s better known novels, "East of Eden" is considered Steinbeck’s most ambitious piece of work in his artistic career.
He had once said that he poured everything he knew about writing and everything he knew about the human struggle between good and evil into "East of Eden."

Set in the 19th century in the Salinas Valley in northern California, the novel begins with a well respected yet penniless man named Samuel Hamilton, as he brings his wife Liza with him from Ireland to California. The Hamiltons go on to have nine children and become a prominent family in the valley.

Meanwhile, Adam Trask also settles in the valley with his pregnant wife Cathy where he eventually becomes friends with the Hamiltons. Adam’s dark and sinister brother, Charles, hates the fact that their father always favored Adam. Charles grows to despise everything about Adam, even his marriage with Cathy. (It is later revealed that Cathy is a prostitute who murdered her parents and stole their money.) Despite his hatred for Cathy, Charles drugs Adam on his wedding night and takes Cathy into his bed.

Adam and Cathy move to California once Adam realizes he cannot live at peace with Charles anymore. Cathy learns she is pregnant with Adam’s children and tries unsuccessfully to get an abortion. She eventually gives birth to twins, Aron and Caleb, but does not care for them enough to stay. She shoots Adam one day, runs away, and resumes her life as a prostitute. Adam survives and covers for Cathy when he is approached by the local sheriff.

In order to make Adam less dependent on his love for Cathy, Samuel finally tells him the truth about her and dies soon after.

The story of Adam and Eve and the story of their sons, Cain and Abel, is the consistent theme throughout the novel. This can be seen the most between Adam and Charles and Adam’s twin boys.

This long and rather brutal novel that follows the Trasks and Hamiltons’ interconnected fates, explores the path to finding one’s identity, love’s mysterious nature, and the deadly cost of the absence of love.