East of Eden - Anger and Rejection

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Rejection and its resultant anger are two pillars around which East of Eden’s plot is built. The story is heavily influenced by these two principles, and they constitute the vast majority of thematic and pivotal plot points in the novel. The overarching theme is illustrated in its majority through Steinbeck’s repeated instances of rejection and anger. Steinbeck illustrates these emotions most clearly in the characters of Charles, Cathy, and Caleb. Their characters are wildly different, but their emotions and reactions are remarkably alike. Charles is the first personification of Cain in the novel, a complete foil to his brother Adam, and unsurprisingly susceptible to rage. The first and most blatant illustration of Charles’s rage is seen in his reaction to losing at peewee to Adam, “[swinging] at his head and knocking him out, [then] kicking him heavily in the stomach.” (Steinbeck p. 23). With the rejection of his idea of his inherent superiority, Charles reacted with savage brutality. This pattern repeats itself later when Charles reacts to Cyrus’s preference of Adam’s gift over his own, accusing Adam of trying to take his father away from him. He reacts with spontaneous violence once more, leaving Adam feeling “punches on temples, cheeks, eyes, his lip split and tatter over his teeth.” (p. 30). Charles once again illustrates his cold and distant personality, reacting violently toward Adam out of jealousy of his father’s love. Charles’s jealousy continues beyond childhood, and chastised his brother upon returning home from war as well. However, despite his incredible inclination for anger, he was still able to recognize the greater evil in Cathy. Cathy is undeniably the angriest character in the novel. She reacts violently and without remorse toward all those in her way. She is rarely faced with rejection, but, regardless, is virtually always angry. However, when she does face the incredible rarity of rejection, her fury reaches unprecedented...
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