It's bittersweet, is it not, to come to the end of this vivid powerful saga? I still feel Cal and Abra, Adam and Cathy in my bones! I'd love to drink tea and talk with Lee and Sam Hamilton. Couldn't you just turn to page one, start over and absorb each word, each character, each generation again?
Before he started writing the novel, Steinbeck wrote, "I will tell [my sons] one of the greatest, perhaps the greatest story of all—the story of good and evil, of strength and weakness, of love and hate, of beauty and ugliness. I shall try to demonstrate to them how these doubles are inseparable—how neither can exist without the other and how out of their grouping creativeness is born."
Thank you for taking this grand journey through the Salinas Valley with me. I hope it was all you wanted a book to be.
It's so fitting, as the book ends, that Cathy—pure evil—kills herself; and that Aron—pure good—runs away from his demons and pain, enlists in the Army to escape the demons he can't face—and is killed. Adam, who has never been totally able to face the truth, seems to finally embrace the darkness and light...the beauty of the struggle...in the moment of his death. On his deathbed, Adam recognizes the truth. In his last word—timshel—he gives Cal the greatest gift he could offer: the belief that Cal has the strength to face the truth and choose wisely in his life.
In the end, only Abra, Lee and Cal—those who journey through the dense woods of good and evil and make choices based on truth—survive.
Abra. As a young girl, she is at first won over by the nearly perfect Aron. But as she grows and matures, as she seeks a real life for herself, Abra's wise heart sees that Aron's purity and beauty is not whole. She falls in love and chooses to build a life with Cal who struggles with his demons, his choices and his truths.
Lee. Ever our wise guide, he sees the truth in each heart—in the sweep of generations—and in the words of the Creator.
And Cal. The soul of East of Eden. In Cal, we feel the constant struggle between good and evil. As Lee explains to Abra, "He is crammed full to the top with every good thing and every bad thing." (East of Eden, page 583.) We live with him through his pain, his battles, his guilt, and ultimately his triumph—his realization of the mythic importance of timshel, thou mayest.