You're now through the beginning of Part Two of East of Eden. The drama in Salinas Valley is truly riveting, isn't it? It really feels a little like the Wild West! I'm finding it hard to put it down, even the second time around! By now, Adam has begun to make his life in Salinas, his new Eden. And as the story crosses into the 20th century, you are entering into the psychic heart of America and history as Steinbeck saw it.
I love the opening of Chapter 13: "Sometimes a kind of glory lights up the mind of a man. ... At such a time it seems natural and good to me to ask myself these questions. What do I believe in? What must I fight for and what must I fight against? ... And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. ... This is what I am and this is what I am about. ... If the glory can be killed, we are lost." I read this passage again and again, out loud sometimes just to hear the sound of it. It resonates with me.
You've met Lee, the Chinese cook and housekeeper, whose wisdom you've only begun to glimpse. His humility and clarity are a touchstone for all the characters in the book. Read his words carefully. His is a beautiful mind.
And just when you thought Cathy couldn't get more evil, she stuns us with the true ice that runs in her veins! In his ongoing questions on good and evil, Steinbeck ponders about Cathy: "It is easy to say she was bad, but there is little meaning unless we know why." Why do you think Cathy was capable of the pure cold-bloodedness we see?
Talk about that with your book clubs and I'll write again next week as we review Chapters 18–22!
Photo credit: Landscape photo courtesy of Steinbeck Country: Exploring the Settings for the Stories by David A. Laws
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In a novel based on good and evil, Cathy's wickedness is as attractive as it is repellent. But can the goodness of all of the Hamilton women balance one evil character? Read an exclusive article from noted Steinbeck scholar Dr. Susan Shillinglaw!
Unlock the mystery of Cathy.