I’m now a little over halfway finished with John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, and I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying it. As I’ve mentioned, I haven’t read anything by Steinbeck before – I guess I thought his books would be too dry or hard to understand or completely not my thing at all. But Steinbeck is immediately readable and the story is good. Even when I take breaks to read something else or hang out with friends or do adult-type stuff like go to my job, I have no trouble picking the book back up and diving in again.
For this read-along, my strategy has been to divide up the designated chapters for each section and read a couple of chapters each evening. That way, I remember the story much better than I would if I tackled the whole section during one or two sittings. My memory is terrible, so this is a great strategy for me. And it’s super helpful when it’s time to answer discussion questions! Speaking of which…(spoiler alert!)
1. What do you think of the characters’ growth and/or change in this section? Specifically, Adam, Cathy/Kate, and Lee have all had some big things happen.
Cathy/Kate has grown in some way? Oh, that’s right. She becomes even more evil and terrible. Her growth has trended downward, and I’m at the point where I hope she just dies, because I think (hope!) her part is done. The change in Lee is really a result of his friendship with Samuel. Samuel was the first person to really see Lee as more than a servant, and after that, I really saw Lee becoming more confident and outspoken and willing to share the wisdom he had collected. Even if he was willing before that, no one would have listened, but his growth truly came from the freedom of being known and valued by someone. As for Adam, I think he has more growth ahead. After Cathy/Kate abandoned him and the twins, the light went out of him and he was just despondent and stagnant for so long. Now that he has a fire in his eyes again, I hope to see him become the man I know he can be.
2. Lee is quickly becoming an important and insightful character. What do you think of his insights and his thoughts on language and his ethnicity?
Lee is profound. That’s all there is to it. But he is also a sad character because his role in life has required him to push aside his own hopes and dreams in order to play the role of servant and caretaker for an indifferent man. And my heart honestly broke a little bit for him when he talked about how he was essentially forced to talk pidgin in conversations with white Americans because of the expectations and stereotypes with which he was already labeled. In spite of that, his observations and insights are astute, and he plays such an important role in the lives of Adam and the twins. So far, he has really been the glue that has held the family together.
3. The Cain and Abel and the importance of narrative continues to take on more prominence. How so?
Even though the blurb on the inside cover mentioned the Cain/Abel connection, I totally forgot about it until Samuel forced Adam to name his twins. Once the characters started pondering the story of Cain and Abel, I remembered. I think for me, knowing how the story of Cain and Abel ended in the Bible, the sense of suspense is heightened. I know something is going to happen, so using the Cain/Abel story as a metaphor in East of Eden makes me curious to see how these different brother relationships play out.
4. How do you perceive Samuel now that he’s gone? Was he just a device for delivering advice?
I really loved Samuel as a character. I don’t think he was just a device for delivering advice. He did that, of course. But at the same time, he was a true friend to Adam and the first person to really see beyond Lee’s surface personality. He was intelligent, wise, and honest. He wasn’t afraid to call out the best in Adam and fight for him at every turn. And in the end, he was just what Adam needed to come back to life.
5. Cathy/Kate…expound. There will probably be one of these at every checkpoint because OMGthatwoman.
I hate Cathy/Kate/whatever she wants to call herself. A Cathy/Kate by any other name would still be a heartless, conniving, manipulative little witch, and I hate her. You know how you feel when Dolores Umbridge comes to Hogwarts and makes Harry’s life a living hell? That pretty much sums up how I feel about Cathy/Kate. She is an unstoppable, destructive force and her evil knows no bounds. I wanted redemption for her, or at least something to shake her up and wake her up. But nope. Not even happening. Just go die, Cathy/Kate.
Are you reading along, friends? What are your thoughts so far?