East of Eden

Topics: Salinas, California, Cain and Abel, John Steinbeck Pages: 3 (986 words) Published: June 3, 2013
James Bryce once said, “The worth of a book is to be measured by what you carry away from it.” Any good piece of literature should both challenge and enrich you, and John Steinbeck’s East of Eden is no exception. More than a mundane reiteration of a biblical tale, East of Eden explores the enduring issue of man’s battle with sin. Steinbeck wove the story of Cain and Abel into the fabric of the Salinas Valley, giving it fresh perspective and proving the battle between good and evil remains relevant today. While reading the novel, I had to juggle several different story lines following the Trask and Hamilton families, as well as connect and relate to those of individual characters. The complex characters and plot, while difficult to fully understand, prompted me to immerse myself in the story. Despite the challenges East of Eden presented, Steinbeck’s use of unexpected characterization, evocative imagery, and powerful allegory required me to rethink previous ideas and gave me insight into human nature. The characterizations in East of Eden contradicted several of my expectations and stereotypes of characters, forcing me to see beyond their face value. Lee, the Trasks’ Chinese house servant, speaks in pidgin, the heavily accented and stilted English typical of Chinese immigrants of the nineteenth century. To introduce himself, he says, “Lee. Got more name…Call Lee” (Steinbeck 160). Lee, a wise and educated man, confides in Samuel Hamilton that he uses pidgin “to be understood at all”. Steinbeck surprised me with this revelation, proving we all hold certain subconscious ideas and opinions of people based on superficial qualities. He uses Lee as a tool to demonstrate the prejudice that permeated society then and continues to affect us now. Unlike others in his society, Samuel can “separate [his] observation from preconception” (Steinbeck 161). Samuel’s ability to do this encourages me to do the same, not only while reading the novel, but in my life as well....
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