Updates from March, 2010 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Jen - Devourer of Books 1:32 pm on March 22, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    East of Eden Section 4 Discussion: Aron and Cal 

    Okay, let’s cut to the chase here, was Cal responsible for Aron’s death? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?

    • Ronnica 5:11 pm on March 22, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      While I totally understand why Cal thinks he’s responsible, he’s not. He didn’t force his brother to join the army…Aron chose it. That doesn’t absolve Cal of his guilt in malicious revealing their mother’s true identity to Aron, though.

    • softdrink 6:18 pm on March 22, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I agree with Ronnica. It was Aron’s choice to join the army. You can’t play that “what if” game, and you can’t take responsibility for other people’s actions. Yes, he did take Aron to see Cathy, but Aron’s reaction is his own. And while it wasn’t very nice of Cal to introduce Aron to their mom, Cal was only being human and emotional…which is more than Aron was, at times.

    • hip chick 5:48 pm on March 23, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t think he was responsible in any way. Even if he did tell Aaron the truth about his mother. The fact is that it should not have been his responsibility to carry it around with him. Adam should have told them both when they were the proper age. Adam let them both down. I don’t think he was a very good father or for that matter a very good husband…not that he had much of a chance with being a husband.
      But, in the end folks do what folks will do and that’s just the way it is.

    • rebeccareid 2:25 pm on March 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      timshel. Nuf said, right?

      Aron chose to go in the army, so I say no, Cal is not responsible. But I can see how he’d feel guilty forever since that was the last time he saw him alive!

  • Jen - Devourer of Books 10:55 am on March 10, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , section 4   

    East of Eden Section 4 Discussion: Cathy Again! 

    In section 4, Cathy begins to fall apart somewhat. She sits in the dark in a little shack attached to the whorehouse because the light hurts her eyes, and she keeps her hands wrapped up because they ache with arthritis. Why do you think Steinbeck had this happen to her? Is she being punished in some way for the evil acts she has committed? Is her latent conscience punishing her?

    • softdrink 6:54 pm on March 10, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      You know, I never even thought of Cathy having a latent conscience, but that’s a good point. I just thought she was increasingly paranoid.

      • jendevourerofbooks 7:06 pm on March 10, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        Oh, I’m not married to the idea of the latent conscience, just one possibility. If she was just increasingly paranoid, what was doing it?

        • rebeccareid 2:28 pm on March 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply

          Well, it was the people coming from her past — that Ethel really scared her. No one had ever come back to her before. I wondered why she’d stayed in the same place for so long without changing her name. She should have moved on and changed her name again before settling down for so long. It was a mistake for her to stay in Salinas, if she wanted to keep getting away with everything.

    • hip chick 6:38 pm on March 11, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      drugs and/or alcohol. There is the possibility that she had some type of mental illness all her life and it just got worse and worse.

    • Ronnica 5:14 pm on March 22, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I think it was the physical manifestation of her sin (this is still a story…it doesn’t have to be rational). Her sin/evil quite literally ate away at her.

    • rebeccareid 2:26 pm on March 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      i think everyone who commented has a valid point. Certainly the drugs she took plus her lifestyle took a toll on her and yes, kind of like the wicked never prosper. This is a somewhat religious story after all, with all the Biblical undertones so it makes sense for the wickedness to come and kick her in the butt in the end.

  • Jen - Devourer of Books 11:17 am on February 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , section 3   

    East of Eden Section 3 Discussion: Timshel 

    Sorry that I’ve been a neglectful book club host, but I think this is just the thing to get us back in the swing of things!  Also, please feel free to go back and comment on any previous discussion questions you may have missed.

    Sometimes I think that if I carried around a little piece of paper that said timshel on it and looked at it throughout the day I’d be a better person.  Other than the Cathy/monster passage, which is memorable for entirely different reasons, my absolute favorite passage in the entire book is the one where Adam, Lee, and Samuel discuss the story of Cain and Abel.  There’s so much goodness in that surprisingly short passage but, most meaningful of all (to me, at least), is timshel.

    Lee’s hand shook as he filled the delicate cups.  He drank his down in one gulp. “Don’t you see? he cried. “The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel-‘Thou mayest’-that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’-it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’ Do you see? …

    …But ‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he still has the great choice. He can choose his course and fight through and win.” Lee’s voice was a chant of triumph

    Pages 301-302

    Thoughts? Opinions?

    • Emma 3:21 pm on February 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Welcome back! I just checked yesterday if was RSS feed was still working.
      This is also my favorite passage. Especially having studied that passage in Hebrew, and the text is corrupted and very difficult to interpret in Hebrew, I was amazed to find this discussion in a novel, and a very good discussion at that. It seems Steinbeck did a very serious homework on that.

    • hip chick 5:25 am on February 28, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Yes I loved this as well. It’s hard to add much to it as it’s pretty much perfection in itself. I found myself rereading and knowing that it was something that I would remember to apply to my life as well.

    • anilak_99 1:28 pm on March 2, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I’ve been thinking about this passage as well, in particular in relation to the Cathy monster passage. They seem to be at odds with one another- on the one hand, Steinbeck seems to highlight that we have a choice to overcome our death (or evil) instincts. We see this later in the book when Lee gets angry at Cal for believing he has bad blood in him.

      On the other hand, if we examine Cathy’s character, she appears to me to be so unassailably evil; there is no struggle within her, no conscience (perhaps small glimpses but these are very unconvincing). From the very beginning Steinbeck portrays her as a lost cause, without prospect for redemption. Indeed, at no point do I ever empathize with her, she has no remorse and really no hope for any kind of salvation and I cant really reconcile this portrayal of her with this later testimony to free will. Not to say that she is incapable of it, but as a reader, I have already written her off, which is the opposite of what this passage is trying to teach us.

    • Ronnica 11:40 am on March 5, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I love how Stienbeck makes this point, through the discussion of his charcters…and then he makes the point through the actions/thoughts of his characters throughout the rest of the book.

    • rebeccareid 2:30 pm on March 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I do love the entire concept of TIMSHEL and I love seeing how it relates to the entire book. Each character has to make their own choices.

  • Jen - Devourer of Books 9:30 am on February 12, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Section 2   

    East of Eden Section 2 Discussion: More About Cathy 

    Evidently when East of Eden was first published, it really wasn’t critically acclaimed. In fact, some critics even totally panned it. One of the things that was mentioned as being ‘wrong’ with the book was Cathy. People thought it was totally unrealistic that in Section 1 she basically just ran away from home to become a whore. In Section 2 she does it again. Personally I think the critics totally missed the point as to why she became a whore: for the power it could bring her, not for the sex. Thoughts? How does Cathy use men’s desire in the first two sections to get her way? Do you think that her running away to a whorehouse twice is realistic?

    • hip chick 1:42 pm on February 12, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I think that is where she ran to because in those times there were not many other options for a woman who did not want to be beholden to a man. I think she wanted power, as you said. I also think that what ever was evil in her wanted to hurt men or have them under her.
      It is interesting that when the book came out it would have been mostly men in the positions to be critics. It does not strike me as unusual that they would find a woman running away to become a whore as realistic. I’m sure that they just could not understand why a woman who could have had whatever a nice man could give her would have wanted anything else. I’m sure they could never understand how being a whore could be preferable to being a nice wife or a nice daughter or even a nice “kept woman” for that matter.
      I do think her running away to a whore house twice is realistic. Perhaps we are able to understand it better now than when the book first came out. We are so much more cynical now. And we are able to see that depravity every night in our own family rooms on TV.
      I was surprised at the sexual evil in her. I was surprised that such a thing was written about back then. I suppose every generation thinks that they invented good and bad in people.
      Of course, it is only history repeating itself.
      I do think that she did what she did not just for power but also for the sex. I think she was so evil and depraved that she wanted that. I think it was part of her sickness…if you can call it that.
      She exploited the good in men to get what she wanted.
      I don’t think Cathy was any more evil and depraved then than she would be now. I do find the way we judge her to have changed though.

      • jendevourerofbooks 1:46 pm on February 12, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        ” I suppose every generation thinks that they invented good and bad in people.”

        Well said!

    • seabenjamin 5:02 pm on February 12, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Hi all,
      I am a recent book blogger and am looking forward to seeing how your new group goes.

    • anilak_99 10:20 am on February 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply


      What I am wondering is the extent to which Steinbeck drew the parallel to the book of Genesis. If the characters of Caleb & Aaron were based on Cain and Abel from the bible, then by extension, Cathy would have been based on Eve and on the Genesis narrative in which Eve leads Adam to transgress God’s laws. Am I correct in thinking that?

      Because Eve tempted Adam to eat of the fatal fruit, the early fathers of the church held her and all subsequent women to be the first sinners, and responsible for the Fall…So far, it appears to me that Steinbeck is instead holding them both responsible for the consequences; Cathy for having no empathic concern and Adam for allowing his to trump reason…

      • jendevourerofbooks 10:44 am on February 17, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        I think you could definitely argue that Cathy is sort of supposed to be Eve. Adam and Samuel say as much before the twins are born. It obviously isn’t a direct retelling of the Genesis story, not least because Adam and Charles have their own Cain and Abel thing going on. It does focus more on that part of the story, and the universality that Steinbeck believed that had, but I do think he meant for us to draw some parallels between Adam and Cathy and Adam and Eve, Adam himself certainly isn’t subtle about it. What does everyone else think?

        • Ronnica 11:45 am on March 5, 2010 Permalink | Reply

          I agree that the allusions to Genesis are thick in this book (in both brother situations) but that you can’t go so far as to extrapolate out that Cathy is Eve. Perhaps Cathy as Adam sees her could represent Eve, but not as she really is.

    • Ronnica 11:43 am on March 5, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I think Cathy knows too well the depravity of man. She knows EXACTLY how to get what she wants, and that’s to exploit the sinful desires of others. Yet she also understands that everyone else hides their sin nature, thus giving her even more power (the pictures of the powerful men in compromising situations).

  • Jen - Devourer of Books 6:49 am on February 8, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    East of Eden Section 2 Discussion: Moving to California 

    There is exactly one point during East of Eden where I start to feel sorry for Cathy, and that is when she and Adam move to California.  I don’t know exactly what her plans were that required her to stay on the East Coast, but she is very adamant about not wanting to move, and Adam totally ignores her.  In fact, he does more than ignore her feelings about California, he ignores almost everything about her.

    Perhaps Adam did not see Cathy at all, so lighted was she by his eyes.  Burned in his mind was an image of beauty and tenderness, a sweet and holy girl, precious beyond thinking, clean and loving, and that image was Cathy to her husband,and nothing Cathy did or said could warp Adam’s Cathy.

    She said she did not want to go to California, and he did not listen, because his Cathy took his arm and started first.

    There’s really a lot going on here.  First of all, how terrible to be treated as Cathy is being treated, even if she is evil!  What do you think about how she’s being treated and her eventual decision just to ride out Adam’s whims and bide her time?

    The other thing that started to intrigue me as I thought about this passage, is WHY Adam did this.  There is the question of why he didn’t recognize Cathy for what she is, as so many of the other characters (Charles, and to a lesser extent Samuel and Lee) do?  And even if he isn’t able to recognize her evil, what is it about his character or their relationship that causes him to put her on such a high pedestal and idealize her so much that he has completely lost the real woman within his shining creation? And, if she had not been so idealized, would he have been less traumatized by her leaving?

    • Swapna 3:42 pm on February 8, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I think Adam just kind of decided he loved Cathy, and that was that. No argument, no acknowledgment that she isn’t what he thinks she is or might not want to do what he wanted to do. He “fell in love” with her without even bothering to know her at all.

    • softdrink 8:48 pm on February 8, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      He’s just oblivious to a lot of what’s going on around him. I thought he was that way with Cal, too. And Charles, to some extent. He only sees what he wants to see.

    • Heather 7:44 am on February 9, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I think that when Cathy came into his life, he was hoping to find something, he was hoping that eventually he would find everything he was looking for (a wife, a home, a life, etc) and when she arrived he just decided that she was the one who would fulfill all those dreams and expectations. He fell in love with what he wanted her to be, not with who she actually was. Because he was so blind to her true personality, he couldn’t have ever predicted that she’d be unhappy or that she’d want to leave. He had this fantasy in his mind of how their relationship was and how their life would be together, and he never expected her to be any different than the Cathy in his mind.

      I felt sorry for her then, too, but I think that she never should have got involved with him in the first place when she did not love him. I get that she did it for her own personal gain, but if she didn’t want to be with him, she shouldn’t have sucked him in at all. She knew how he felt about her, and she used that to her advantage. So I only felt somewhat sorry for her when he moved them without her consent.

    • emma 8:51 am on February 9, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I agree with Heather. I think he was more in love with an idealistic woman, an idea than the woman Cathy herself. This is a common literary theme in European romantic literature (France, Germany), when the woman is so idealized that she is no longer the woman as a human person in the here and now. Both had their share of failings, as every human has: hers are presented from the evil point of view, his from the good side ( I mean, tending too much towards idealization, perfection), but both are failures as both tendencies are too extreme and not human.

    • ibeeeg 9:48 am on February 9, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I agree with Heather and Emma. I do think Adam was blinded by what he wanted, what he craved. He thought he got the love he wanted when Cathy married him. I think Emma put it well when she said that Adam’s point of view was from the good side…leaning too much towards idealization and perfection. That is a failing on his part . I hope it does not destroy him.

      Cathy, I did not feel sorry for her. She is conniving. Yes, it put it a damper on whatever plans she had but her twisted ways had her think of a way out. No, I did not feel sorry for her. First, she should have never married Adam. Second, she spoke up, once or twice about her lack of desire to move but she really did not fuss about it. She planned a way out. Hard to feel sorry for someone who really is wicked. She uses people…she used Adam.

    • zibilee 5:01 pm on February 9, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I agree with the posters who said that Adam fell in love with the idea of Cathy, and not Cathy herself. To me, it seemed that Adam has never really been able to see situations or people for what they really are, only what he wants them to be. I also agree that both Adam and Cathy are on opposite ends of the spectrum, and neither are really human viewpoints. I was surprised that Cathy didn’t vehemently refuse the move, because up until that point, she had never really gone along with something she didn’t want to do. Maybe her experiences with the pimp shattered her resolve and made her a little less strident and headstrong. Maybe she knew that she had to go along with Adam because there was really no other choice for her. She was pregnant, had no money and no one to fall back on at the time. Maybe it was the best option that she could see for herself.

      I can’t really feel sorry for her though. She is just so evil, and her evil lives and breathes just under the surface, biding it’s time until she can take advantage of someone. I think that she was an opportunist, and that while she was waiting, she was scheming. I find it sad that she is so cold and without remorse, she really has no redeeming qualities at all.

      I think it’s interesting to consider how Adam would have felt about her leaving if he had not idealized her so much. I definitely think he would have been less affected by her abandonment if he didn’t see her as the perfect woman, and I think he would have gotten over her a lot more quickly.

    • hip chick 5:38 am on February 10, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Love is blind.
      I did not feel badly for Cathy. I felt badly for Adam. He is just so blind.
      I think maybe we all do that to some extent. It’s lovely to think that every one thinks as we do. That every one see’s the world or at least that there is one special some one out there who wants every single thing that we want…
      But, this is not really the case. Every one has their own dreams and goals.
      Cathy’s were just really messed up. She was just really evil.
      I did not feel badly for her because she was never really hurt. She doesn’t have the capacity to hurt I don’t think. She only has the capacity to hurt others.
      I think and hope that we as humans are mostly balanced in the middle of Cathy and Adam. That we tend to lean more towards the good side but that leaning that way often requires some determination.

  • Jen - Devourer of Books 2:29 am on February 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    East of Eden Section 1 Discussion: Open Discussion 

    What else did you want to talk about in Section 1 that we didn’t already discuss?

    • Heather 7:33 am on February 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      How about the fact that I am LOVING it and going to finish way early? 😉

      • Heather 8:43 pm on February 5, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        I was having the exact same problem! I made myself put it down for a few days. I’m afraid if I finish early, I’ll forget stuff before the end of our discussion!

    • SuziQoregon 2:25 pm on February 9, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Same problem here. I finished another book a few days ago and then went back to East of Eden to read Section 2. Couldn’t stop and have stuck with it. Will probably finish today or tomorrow. LOVING it!!

  • Jen - Devourer of Books 1:01 pm on February 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    East of Eden Section 1 Discussion: Cathy/Monsters Born to Human Parents 

    I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents…. And just as there are physical monsters, can there not be mental or psychic monsters born? The face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produce a malformed soul?

    This section gives me creepy chills every time I read it, and yet it is one of my favorite parts of the entire book.  It is the one piece of Steinbeck’s prose that I can tell you exactly where it came from in the book.  Beginning of chapter 8, of course!

    What is it that gives this section its power?  Are there some people really born as monsters?  Was Cathy one of them?  What about Charles? If they weren’t born like that, how did they come to be like that?

    • emma 3:12 pm on February 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I have to say this is one of the rare passages of the book I don’t like too much, in the sense that I disapprove with the author: in this section, he appears to me to be over-Augustinian in his view of human nature: I do recognize that there’s a bug in every human, that can be traced to what is religiously referred to as the original sin, but the person remains a person, and I would not ever put that person in the “monster” category.
      Moreover, I also believe that through grace and the adequate circumstances, a person has always the possibility to grow and be less influenced by whatever form the ‘original sin’ has left on him/her.
      Well I realize I haven’t really answered your questions, I guess that was my gut feeling reaction to them.

      • jendevourerofbooks 3:17 pm on February 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        Personally I don’t really see Steinbeck talking about original sin here. I think he’s talking more about some sort of deformation, not the normal flaws that are in everyone. I might agree with you on not really liking the appellation ‘monster,’ because, as you said, they are really still a person. That being said, I’ve always thought of Cathy as sort of a sociopath, that she was basically born without a conscious. I don’t know that one can really ever grow out of that.

    • softdrink 5:42 pm on February 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I think that Cathy was missing something (a conscience?), and that she was never going to develop it. So yes, I do think she was born bad. She had loving parents and a good childhood, and was still lacked the ability to love and be good. I think you’re on to something with the label of sociopath.

      Charles, on the other hand…I think he was just bitter because of his father. At times I sensed he loved his brother, but he was also jealous. I don’t think he was nearly as bad as Cathy, although they did sense something familiar in each other.

    • ibeeeg 5:49 pm on February 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I agree with you Jen. I thought of Cathy as a sociopath, she was born without a conscious. It seemed that she was devious from the start. As softdrink stated, she had good and loving parents by all accounts given in the book. She has unnerved me. I have not read on from chapter 11 yet and she has me concerned for Adam and Charles. I do think she is wicked.

      With Charles, I agree with softdrink, he was terribly jealous of Adam as he thought his father did not love him but loved Adam. I think, in this case, the father did harm and the mother did not help either. In the beginning, I did not like Charles towards the chapter 11 I started to feel a bit bad for him. He certainly was dysfunctional but I think he truly does love Adam. His tendency to behave badly was proven again at the end of our first section read. This time though, I think in his warped way he thinks he is protecting Adam by doing what he did.

    • Heather 8:54 am on February 2, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I definitely think that a sociopath is the human version of a monster – Cathy is absolutely a sociopath, and I don’t think that is something that can be changed or fixed in a person.

      I don’t think Charles is the same, because a sociopath doesn’t care about other people, and has no real human emotions to speak of, and Charles definitely cared about his family. I think he was just overcome with his jealousy of Adam and couldn’t contain those feelings. I agree with you, Softdrink, about Charles and Cathy sensing something familiar in each other – perhaps Charles saw her as his worst case scenario, he saw the potential in himself to be like her and it scared him. He knew instinctively he should stay away from her, and because he loved Adam, he wanted him to stay as far away from her as possible too.

    • emma 9:34 am on February 2, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      ‘Devourer of books’ commented on my post: “Personally I don’t really see Steinbeck talking about original sin here”. And I first thought: of course, and anyway this is not what I said.
      I said: “he appears to me to be over-Augustinian in his view of human nature: I do recognize that there’s a bug in every human, that can be traced to what is religiously referred to as the original sin”. The ‘original sin’ mention is after ” I recognize”., so I was expressing my view here, not Steinbeck. I mentioned this to explain what I consider his pessimistic view of human nature.
      But thinking more about it, as I was reading something by Annie Dillard this morning on my exercise bike, suddenly this came to me: now wait a minute: the book is called East of Eden, and the twins Aaron and Caleb are constantly presented on the background of Abel and Cain – whose story is presented in the Bible as the 1st consequence of the ‘original sin’ in regard to human relationship.
      Steinbeck’s persistent presentation of the story, and even lengthy exegetical analysis of verse Genesis 4:7, especially through Lee and his meeting of scholars, shows that this was central to him. And having myself studied this Genesis passage years ago, in Hebrew, along with many exegetical commentaries of this very difficult Hebrew verse, can see that Steinbeck did his homework on this very seriously, and very accurately too.
      SO: I do actually believe this has definitely something to do with the original sin.

      As for Cathy, I wouldn’t say she has no conscience: if she had, she would not be interiorly tortured as she happens to be sometimes later in the book. She would have no inner suffering, she would not fight, whereas there is an inner battle going on in her.

  • Jen - Devourer of Books 3:53 am on January 28, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    East of Eden Section 1 Discussion: Adam and Charles 

    What do you think of the relationship between Adam and Charles?  How did Steinbeck try to draw the parallels to Cain and Abel? Do you think it was successful? How do you think the boys really felt about each other?

    • Heather 5:40 pm on February 5, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Sorry, just got my internet fixed last night.

      Adam and Charles have a very love/hate relationship that goes way beyond the typical sibling relationship norm. At times I felt like their relationship was very forced, like they didn’t really want to be together, but couldn’t stay away from each other either, since they were all each other had.

      As for the parallels, Adam was the favorite of their father, rather like Abel was the biblical Adam’s favorite. Charles, like Cain, hates this and doesn’t understand what he’s done to make his father not love him equally. I do think Steinbeck was successful in this parallel, down to Charles almost killing Adam over the pocket knife.

      I think the brothers really do love and need each other, despite the jealousy. Without each other, they have no other family, no one to share the burden of life with.

  • Jen - Devourer of Books 2:25 am on January 25, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , East of Eden Section 1   

    East of Eden Section 1 Discussion: Chapter 1 

    I’m not really planning to go chapter-by-chapter, but I thought that Chapter 1 deserved a discussion of its own. Unlike in “Grapes of Wrath,” Steinbeck does not spend a lot of time in “East of Eden” writing chapters upon chapters of general description. What was he hoping to accomplish by opening “East of Eden” with this descriptive chapter? How do you see what he has written relating to the rest of the story so far?

    • Heather 6:37 pm on January 25, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I think he was trying to establish the dichotomy we see through out the novel; good verses evil. He gives us the good about the valley and he gives us the bad and even everything in between. It sets the stage for what is to come later in the novel, with the good Hamiltons and the not so good Trasks and the evil Cathy.

      • jendevourerofbooks 11:32 pm on January 25, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        And interesting how the valley contains both good and evil in it, it isn’t simply one or the other. It does seem that there are characters in the book who are totally good, or at least we’ve forgotten about the evil they have inside them that they simply aren’t expressing, characters that are totally evil or at least aren’t expressing their good, and characters who fully show both sides of that coin.

    • emma 6:53 pm on January 25, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I believe he also wants to show the impact of the environment on people, and for that, he had to take time to speak about the setting.

      • jendevourerofbooks 11:30 pm on January 25, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        Interesting. Where else did you see this theme of environment playing out? Or, rather, is he setting something up with this opening that he continues later in the book?

        • emma 7:41 am on January 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply

          For me, this is a constant thread throughout the book after that

      • trish 8:52 pm on January 27, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        I really agree that the environment had an impact on the characters in the book. In fact, I would almost argue that the environment was in and of itself a character, because as Emma mentions, the impact of the environment is a constant thread in the book.

        • emma 10:26 pm on January 27, 2010 Permalink | Reply

          Wow, I love that: the environment of itself a character. very true, I think

      • rebeccareid 1:23 pm on February 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        I agree, I think the environment is key!

    • Swapna 8:51 am on January 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I agree with Heather – the descriptions of the land is to set up the good vs. evil theme that runs through the book.

    • Deana/ibeeeg 11:29 am on January 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      After reading the first chapter, I was bit bored. But when I thought about what he may have been trying to accomplish with the chapter I gained an appreciation for the descriptions. I agree with Heather that the descriptions are a play on the good vs evil theme.

      • Michelle 8:37 pm on January 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        That’s how I feel. I didn’t “get into” the book during that first chapter, but I think it would be interesting to go back and reread it after finishing the book.

        • rebeccareid 1:23 pm on February 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply

          I LOVE the first chapter for setting it up. I’m just a sucker for long beautiful descriptions of setting, though.

    • softdrink 10:58 am on January 27, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I agree with Heather, but I also see it as reflective of the struggles many of the characters went through. Just as people struggle with the harsh land and the environment, so does Cal struggle with the good and bad within himself.

    • trish 8:55 pm on January 27, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I agree about the good versus evil in regards to the environment, but I guess this first chapter has always been fascinating to me because I live relatively close to the Salinas Valley. I can picture the areas he’s talking about, so the history doesn’t bore me, rather it sets the stage in a rather unique and perfect way. However, I would see how others might not be as interested in it. 🙂

      • Pam 10:27 pm on January 27, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        I find that what I love most about the classics is the tedious to some descriptions. I think we needed this rich, elaborate history of the valley. I think he spends a great deal of time getting us ready for what is to come!

    • SuziQoregon 11:02 pm on January 27, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      While I agree about the good vs. evil, what struck me as I read this chapter was the vividness of his descriptions. When I read his description of the color of California Poppies, I had to pause and just let it sink in becaue it was so perfect. I even read it out loud to my husband.

      It was a small moment, but it let me know that this was a book that would be painting images in my head all the way through it.

      • Heather 4:06 am on January 28, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        Wasn’t it gorgeous? I loved this chapter for those vivid descriptions. It’s what drew me in (finally!) to this novel.

      • rebeccareid 1:24 pm on February 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        the poppies part made me pause and reread it too. I also stopped and pondered it a minute!

    • Heather @ Book Addiction 11:45 am on January 28, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I agree with what was said about the environment having a huge effect on all the characters in East of Eden. This is my second time reading the book, and the first time I read it, I was so bored by the first chapter. But now that I’m reading it again, having experienced these characters once before, I really loved reading the first chapter and seeing how it set the stage for so much of the novel. Both in the form of his vivid descriptive writing and showing how important the setting is to the story and the characters’ lives.

    • rebeccareid 1:22 pm on February 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I finally finished Chapter 1! I loved this book years ago but I had a hard time finding time to get started. I suspect it will go fast since I love it.

      I was struck by how biblical the first chapter felt, especially section 2. It’s the beginning and we have to know the place before the people come in. That’s my thought at least.

  • Jen - Devourer of Books 11:23 pm on January 22, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    East of Eden Discussion Information 

    I’ll be posting discussion questions for Section 1 intermittently throughout the next two weeks, so make sure you are watching our feed.  I’m aiming for Mondays and Thursdays, so keep an extra close watch those days, but don’t yell at me if I don’t quite make it!

    • Heather 9:44 am on January 24, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Yay!! I can’t wait!

      And I would never yell at you!

    • SuziQoregon 11:23 am on January 24, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Yay ! Thank you for getting me to finally read this book. LOVED Part 1 and looking forward to starting Part 2.

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