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Sunday, August 10, 2014

East of Eden: Discussion #2.... Birth, Death, and OMGCathy/Kate

The East of Eden Read-a-long July 21-August 18 
The Estella Project

Steinbeck considered East of Eden to be his big book. The Grapes of Wrath is a great book, but East of Eden is personal: Steinbeck is telling the story of his family (the Hamiltons), and he insinuates himself into the novel ( we finally find out that the narrator is John Steinbeck, Olive's sone and Samuel's grandson.
Question #1: What do you think of the characters' growth and/or development?
So much happens in this section! We find out that Lee is an intellectual, a philosopher, and a good mother. Good thing too, because Adam is a mess, and Cathy has the mothering instincts of a serpent. Samuel is the storyteller and the moral core of the novel. He may die, but his spirit endures.

Okay, I have to admit that I adore the character of Cathy/Kate. She absolutely luxuriates in her evil--she's like Milton's Satan! 

Thank God Adam gets some testicles! About time!
Question #2: Lee's insights, his thoughts on language and ethnicity...
Steinbeck is brilliant here. His development of Lee's character upends the stereotypes of the time, and defies the reader's expectations. Of course he is still the wise spirit guide that Adam and the boys need. Is that still a stereotype?
Question #3: the Cain and Abel story....
I'm glad Steinbeck spends so much time on the significance of this story. Lee's obsession with the meaning of specific words in the Biblical story of Cain and Abel forces the reader to really think about the story very deeply. And Steinbeck makes this story part of a family pattern: the first pair of brothers, Adam and Charles, have the same rivalry that will be repeated with Aron and Cal. Cal seems to be frighteningly like Cathy. We still don't know whether Adam or Charles is the father of the boys...'and neither does Adam.
Question #4: How do you perceive Samuel now that he's gone?
I think Samuel is extremely important: he is the moral core of this novel. I think one thing Steinbeck was  doing with the character of Samuel was showing his sons where they came from. The novel was a story Steinbeck urgently wanted to tell his sons, one he hoped would be universal.
Question # 5: Cathy/Kate: expound.
Oh her vicious little sharp teeth! Her sadism! Her desire for revenge! She is a cold murderess, a plotter and a little actress. Yes, OMGthatwoman... Nothing Cathy/Kate does will be boring!

So: this book just keeps getting better and better.


Andi said...

YESSSS! I love that you compared Cathy/Kate to Milton's Satan!!!! I remember in college coming to the realization that villain's like Milton's Satan are SOOOO much more interesting than their perfect counterparts. Great stuff!

bibliophiliac said...

@Andi-It's amazing how much I am enjoying Cathy's character. Steinbeck created a character who is so evil she takes your breath away.

Laurie C said...

Great answers! I'm behind in the discussion/readalong, and am not sure when I'll get caught up, but love hearing everyone's thoughts! I agree that Cathy/Kate is a compelling character, but I think Milton made Satan more sympathetic than Steinbeck makes Cathy!