Essays academic service


The character and actions of catherine ames in john steinbecks novel east of eden

The valley is a new world both idyllic and harsh, and Steinbeck sings to it with a personal nostalgia that is clouded by the knowledge that this valley-as all human dwellings-is the location for as much tragedy as triumph. The first family whose story is told in this novel is the Hamiltons, led by the charismatic poet-patriarch Samuel Hamilton, an Irish immigrant who raises a large and boisterous family on a mean and unyielding plot of land through charm, ingenuity, and adaptability.

The children act out the numerous possibilities of American life, some making money in business and advertising, some seeking love and home life, others failing utterly in their struggle to find meaning and clarity in the chaotic possibility of a new century.

East of Eden Reader’s Guide

The second family, the Trasks, is introduced to us as a Connecticut father-a false war hero with a fortune of mysterious origin-his used-up wives, and his two sons: After a stint in the army and aimless years as a hobo, Adam falls in love and migrates to Salinas, intending to create his own Garden of Eden. There he presides over a fractured home, raising twin sons Caleb and Aron alone after the dissolution of his marriage to the unfathomable, treacherous Catherine Ames.

Catherine herself-later known as Kate-represents the potential for evil in the world. Her life in the valley is the antithesis of that which the Trasks and Hamiltons seek to achieve, as she sinks into a limited life of meanness. But Adam and his sons are held together as a family by the Chinese-American philosopher-servant Lee, who offers wisdom in the face of painful circumstances. Together the characters try to formulate personal paradises that can withstand the inevitable challenges of human existence, battling the contradiction between the desire to submit to God and tradition and the human need for self-realization and fulfillment.

A brilliant novel of ideas, East of Eden is far-reaching in its effort to explicate the most fundamental trials of mankind. And it is a work of profound optimism about the capacity of humans to triumph over adversity and determine their own fates. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe.

  1. What is Steinbeck trying to say about guilt and forgiveness?
  2. The last scene between Adam and Cal is momentous; what exactly happens between them, and how hopeful a note is this profound ending?
  3. The Hamiltons and the Trasks are most explicitly differentiated by their relationship to money.

It is always attacked and never destroyed. Born in 1902 in Salinas, California, Steinbeck attended Stanford University before working at a series of mostly blue-collar jobs and embarking on his literary career. Profoundly committed to social progress, he used his writing to raise issues of labor exploitation and the plight of the common man, penning some of the greatest American novels of the twentieth century and winning such prestigious awards as the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

If our ancestors had not been that, they would have stayed in their home plots in the other world and starved over the squeezed-out soil. Can you identify archetypically American qualities—perhaps some of those listed above—in the characters? How does living in America change them and their children? What opportunities does America provide for the clan, and what challenges?

Adam Trask struggles to overcome the actions of others—his father, brother, and wife—and make his own life. What is the lesson that he learns that frees him from Kate and allows him to love his sons? That would be something I could value. Would you characterize his life as successful in the end?

Lee is one of the most remarkable characters in American literature, a philosopher trapped by the racial expectations of his time. He is the essence of compassion, erudition, and calm, serving the Trasks while retaining a complex interior and emotional life. Do you understand why he speaks in pidgin, as he explains it to Sam Hamilton?

How does his character change—in dress, speech, and action—over the course of the book?

  • It is always attacked and never destroyed;
  • He is the essence of compassion, erudition, and calm, serving the Trasks while retaining a complex interior and emotional life;
  • The Hamiltons and the Trasks are most explicitly differentiated by their relationship to money:

And why do you think Lee stays with the Trasks, instead of living on his own in San Francisco and pursuing his dream? Women in the novel are not always as fully realized as the main male characters.

Can you understand what motivates her? Is she truly evil or does Steinbeck allow some traces of humanity in his characterization of her? What does her final act, for Aron Trask, indicate about her well-hidden emotions?

Sibling rivalry is a crushing reoccurrence in East of Eden. Have you ever experienced or witnessed such a rivalry? Do all of the siblings in the book act out this drama or do some escape it? Are the C characters also good, the A characters capable of evil? Abra, at first simply an object of sexual competition to Cal and Aron, becomes a more complex character in her relationships with the brothers but also with Lee and her own family.

Yet he also makes extremely prescient comments about the role that many races played in the building of America, and he takes the time to give dignity to all types of persons. Lee is one example of a character that constantly subverts expectations. How unusual do you think it might have been to write about America as a multicultural haven in the 1950s?

And do you agree that that is what Steinbeck does, or do you think he reveals a darker side to American diversity?

READERS GUIDE

What constitutes true wealth in the book? The Hamiltons and the Trasks are most explicitly differentiated by their relationship to money: Think of different times that money is sought after or rejected by characters such as Will Hamilton and Cal Trask and the role that it plays to help and hinder them in realizing their dreams.

Does the quest for money ever obscure deeper desires? During the naming of the twins, Lee, Sam, and Adam have a long conversation about a sentence from Genesis, disagreeing over whether God has said an act is ordered or predetermined. Lee continues to think about this conversation and enlists the help of a group of Chinese philosophers to come to a conclusion: What is Steinbeck trying to say about guilt and forgiveness? About family inheritance versus free will?

Think of instances where this distinction is important in the novel, and in your own life. The end of the novel and the future of the Trasks seems to rest with Cal, the son least liked and least understood by his father and the town.

What does Cal come to understand about his relationship to his past and to each member of his family? The last scene between Adam and Cal is momentous; what exactly happens between them, and how hopeful a note is this profound ending?

  1. Lee is one of the most remarkable characters in American literature, a philosopher trapped by the racial expectations of his time. Stephanus without doing anything is undone, his hiding place is very advanced.
  2. Is she truly evil or does Steinbeck allow some traces of humanity in his characterization of her? About family inheritance versus free will?
  3. Do you understand why he speaks in pidgin, as he explains it to Sam Hamilton? What opportunities does America provide for the clan, and what challenges?
  4. He is the essence of compassion, erudition, and calm, serving the Trasks while retaining a complex interior and emotional life. How does his character change—in dress, speech, and action—over the course of the book?
  5. But Adam and his sons are held together as a family by the Chinese-American philosopher-servant Lee, who offers wisdom in the face of painful circumstances.

What do you think he gained by morphing genres in this fashion? What distinguishes this from a typical autobiography?