Secrets, lies, manipulation and mystery will have your head spinning as we approach the half-way point of this page-turning saga. I'm hoping you're all in the thick of it by now!
As we finish Part Two, Cathy has left Adam and her newborn sons, moved into Salinas and made her startling transformation into Kate the prostitute. She masterminds a plan of murder and debauchery as she takes control of Faye's brothel. She is evil.
In Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters, Steinbeck writes, "Cathy Ames is a monster—don't think they do not exist. If one can be born with a twisted and deformed face or body, one can surely also come into the world with a malformed soul."
I never thought of it that way before. A malformed soul feels like more than an aberration of nature...it feels like an aberration of spirit.
After a year, Adam has still not named his sons! As Samuel Hamilton and Lee push Adam to name his twins, we get to the heart of the book—the 16 verses of the biblical Cain and Abel story. It is retold and recast throughout East of Eden in the stories of Adam and Charles, Adam and Cathy, and in the newly named twins, Aaron [Aron] and Caleb.
In Lee's reflection on the power of the Cain and Abel parable, I find wisdom that is profoundly true:
"I think this is the best-known story in the world because it is everybody's story. I think it is the symbol story of the human soul. ... The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears. ... And with the rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt—and there is the story of mankind. I think if rejection could be amputated, the human would not be what he is. Maybe there would be fewer crazy people. I am sure in myself there would not be many jails. It is all there. ... It isn't simple at all. It's desperately complicated. But at the end there's light."
The greatest truth: the desire to be loved. There's so much for you and your reading groups to ponder until we talk again next week!
Photo credit: Landscape photo courtesy of Steinbeck Country: Exploring the Settings for the Stories by David A. Laws