Steinbeck utilizes the opening chapter's symbolic landscape to illustrate the overriding theme of good versus evil that permeates the novel: the Eden-like Salinas Valley is surrounded by the "good" sunlit Gabilan Mountains to the East, and the dark and foreboding "bad" Santa Lucias Mountains to the West. For most of the novel, the characters reside in this valley.
The land also reveals the characteristics of the two major families, the Hamilton and the Trasks. The Hamiltons settle in the driest land, but although their land is practically barren, they raise nine children. The wealthy Trasks buy the most fertile land, but despite its rich soil and plentiful water, the farm remains uncultivated for decades after Cathy abandons Adam.
Steinbeck illustrates the central theme of good versus evil through two of his primary characters: Samuel Hamilton, who represents goodness, and Cathy Ames, who represents pure evil. Both characters play crucial roles in the spiritual development of the protagonist, Adam Trask.
Samuel Hamilton, the positive patriarch, mentors Adam with support and guidance, unlike Adam's own father, Cyrus, who lies about his military record to amass a fortune. Samuel, an Irish immigrant himself, views books as treasures, and fathers nine children. Throughout the novel, he is associated with light, water, and fertitility.
Cathy Ames is Samuel Hamilton's polar opposite. She murders her parents, becomes a prostitute and brothel owner, enslaves her whores with drugs, encourages sadomasochistic sexual practices, and blackmails her customers. In contrast to Samuel, Cathy is associated with darkness and gloom.
Both the innate goodness of Samuel Hamilton and the inherent evil of Cathy Ames deeply influence Adam Trask, and throughout the novel he wavers between the two poles. He loves his wife Cathy even when he is confronted with her evil nature, but also deeply admires his teacher and mentor, Samuel.
The concept of timshel is a major thematic concern throughout the novel. A hebrew verb, timshel translates into "thou mayest", and expresses the notion that humans have the ability to choose good over evil. It holds that we can decide not to be influenced by our dark family histories, and choose instead to live more positive lives.
The concept of timshel stipulates that every individual, at any given time, has the ability to choose good over evil. This idea is particularly pertinent at the end of the novel, during Adam's death scene. Adam's son Cal believes that he is condemned to become an evil man because he has inhertited his prostitute mother's innately evil nature. Adam, however, raises his hand in blessing and utters the word to his son - timshel - signifying the fact Cal can decide his own moral destiny for himself.
Steinbeck employs the theme of rivalry to the relationships between the novel's two sets of brothers: Charles and Adam, and Cal and Aron, whose initials recall the biblical brothers Cain and Abel. The sons of Adam and Eve, Cain is a farmer and Abel a shepherd. God prefers Abel's sacrificial offering of a lamb over Cain's offering of grain. In a jealous rage, Cain murders his brother. Cain angrily replies to God's inquiry by saying, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Cain is exiled to wander in the East of Eden.
Charles and Adam's lives and actions recall those of Cain and Abel. When Cyrus favors Adam's birthday gift over Charles', the jealous Charles nearly kills Adam. The next generation of brothers, Cal and Aron, further perpetuates the Cain and Abel legend. When their father, Adam, spurns Cal's birthday present of $15,000, the jealous Cal takes revenge on Aron by taking him to see their mother, a prostitute. Aron joins the army, and soon after dies.
Steinbeck creates two important father figures in the novel: Samuel Hamilton and Cyrus Trask. Both of these father-figures influence the protagonist, Adam Trask, and present him with paternal models for the choices he must make in his own life. Both Samuel and Cyrus are bearded, in the biblical patriarchal style.
Adam's father, Cyrus, commits the novel's original sin by lying about his Civil War record to advance himself politically and financially. Samuel, on the other hand, is the archetypical force for goodness - the good father to Cyrus' bad father. He exhibits enormous physical strength and capability, while Cyrus hobbles on one leg. Samuel is a symbol of life, of fertility: he cultivates barren soil, fathers nine children, and is associated with water imagery. He digs wells, is always washing, and delivers the twins, Aron and Cal.
Cyrus, on the other hand, is a negative force: a cruel, one-legged thief, Cyrus continually manipulates those around him. He is associated with disease and death, rather than fertility. He infects his religious wife with syphilis, causing her to commit suicide.
Throughout East of Eden, characters withold the truth both from themselves and from others. Cyrus lies about his Civil War record to win an important job and an ill-gained fortune. Charles withholds the truth about Cathy's seduction on Adam's wedding night. Lee lies to himself about his desire to leave the Trask family and open a bookstore. Cal keeps his business ventures secret from his father. Adam and Lee keep the truth about their mother, Cathy, from Cal and Aron. Similarly, Cal fails to inform his father and Lee that he knows that his mother is a notorious brothel owner. Adam lies to himself about Cathy and excuses her depraved behavior.
However, the truth ultimately sets Adam and Cal free. Cathy, the ultimate liar, is suspicious of Adam when he arrives to inform her that Charles has left her a large inheritance. She is used to dealing with people who lie. When he finally faces the truth about her, he feels exhilarated and free. When Cal faces up to the fact that telling Aron the truth might have resulted in his death, he takes responsibility for his actions, and realizes that he has the ability to make good choices in the future.
Throughout the novel, Steinbeck questions the biblical statement that the sins of the father are visited upon the son (Psalms 79:8). Early on, Cyrus Trask lies about his military record in the American Civil War to gain an important government position in Washington D.C. When he dies, he leaves his children, Charles and Adam, an ill-gained fortune. It might seem that Charles and Adam are doomed to live difficult lives because of their father's original sin. Indeed, Charles lives a miserly existence as a laboring recluse on the New England family farm and never knows a moment of happiness, while Adam, too miserable to return home, wanders as a vagabond and marries the ultimate evil female, Cathy Ames.
Cyrus's sin does indeed seem to have filtered down to the next generation. The deeply devout Aron attempts to escape his legacy, but death comes early, on a battlefield in France during World War I. Cal, it seems, is similarly doomed to immorality by his mother's depraved spirit - he earns $15,000 by taking advantage of farmers during the war. He blames himself for his brother's death until Lee helps him understand that God gave people the ability to choose goodness over evil. Cal can undo the family curse and live a morally upright life.
Good vs. Evil in John Steinbeck's East of Eden
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Good vs. Evil in East of Eden
"God saw that all he had created was very good. You are part of gods creation, and he is pleased with how he made you. If at times you feel worthless or of little value, remember that god made you for a good reason. You are valuable to him." ( Genesis 1:31) I believe that all things created are at first good. The Bible gives pages upon pages of quotes and stories on the battle of good versus evil, but in the story East of Eden we are given what might be the greatest question of it all, and that is if the main character Cathy a.k.a. Kate was born good or evil.
Kate was born and brought up an only child. At first Kate was a normal child and no one thought anything of her. When she got a little bit older Kate began to do things other children wouldn't normally do. At one point she was caught in her Barn with two boys and her tied up. Her mother and father punished her for this and whipped her until she was good again. Kate was doing great things, she was doing things that made her look like a perfect child. One day though Kate made a plan to kill her parents by locking them in the house while she sets it on fire. Kate did this and immediately got out of town. This is when Kate made her and ended up with Adam Trask another main character.
Adam fell in love with Kate and ended up marring her and moving into a ranch with her. Kate the whole time stayed silent and not very sociable. She became pregnant gave birth to twin boys. Right after the boys were born she went on a mad rampage and shot Adam in the shoulder and ran off to be a whore. She told Adam she was Evil and didn't want anything to do with him or the boys.
Kate ran away to a whore house and there she tortured and blackmailed many important men in the community. These man could not stop coming back, as though she had some power over them. All the while Adam was home trying to deal with the heart break of Kate leaving and her almost killing him.
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Vs. Evil Good Vs. Evil East Of Eden John Steinbeck Little Bit Only Child Main Character
Adam had once made a trip to visit Kate to only find out how Evil she really was, and who she really was.
Kate throughout the story was mean, evil, and cold hearted, you would see little evidence of even having a heart. I believe This Evil and cold-heartens had to do with her upbringing. Kate being an only child didn't have the privilege of growing up with an older sibling or having any suck role model character. I think she had lots of pressure put on by her parents and peers to succeed in life. Kate didn't know how to handle it so she rebelled. Her parents didn't know how to handle such a thing since she was their first child, so they beat her. They taught her that evil will produce good. Kate lived her life that way. She did it so much that she got pleasure from doing bad.
In conclusion I believe it was Kate's poor upbringing that had made her such an evil person. I feel that if she would have had a better and more positive upbringing she may have come out much better. Kate's way of life was not normal, but I feel that people are born good and through nurture and love people stay good, but if people don't get enough love then they may not turn out good, but evil.