Newsletter: East Of Eden
Do you feel as deeply immersed in Steinbeck's world as I do right now? Themes resonate and truths are more deeply illuminated with each new chapter!
The past returns and we glimpse future destinies as we move through the generations of this huge family chronicle. As we finish Part Three, we see a waning of the Hamiltons. None but the most pragmatic—like Will Hamilton—seem to survive. In an effort to end his beloved sister Dessie's mysterious ailment, Tom accidentally causes her death. Unable to endure his guilt, Tom ends his life with a Smith & Wesson .38. It's almost as though the dreamers and tender-hearted people cannot survive in a world of modern struggle.
Again and again, we see the contrast between those who have the strength to conquer evil and those who cannot survive their own weaknesses. In an eerie echo of Trask family history, Adam's brother Charles has died and left an inheritance of more than $100,000 to Adam and, strangely, to Cathy. The manipulative Cal eavesdrops on Adam and Lee discussing Cathy and the fortune—and his worst horrors are confirmed. His mother is not dead—she is a whore in Salinas. Cal's very "blood," he dreads, is tainted.
Is Cal truly Cain? Is he predisposed to evil, or can he "choose" another path? In Cal, the truest battle of the soul will be waged.
Cathy is maliciously suspicious of Adam's motives when he tells her of her inheritance. For the first time, though, Adam feels Cathy is afraid of him. "'You know about the ugliness in people,'" Adam tells her. "'You use all the sad, weak parts of a man, ... and you're sure—that's all there is. I seem to know there's a part of you missing. ... You are only a part of a human.'"
Unlike Cathy, Adam is not destroyed by his weaknesses. In their final confrontation, Adam's journey is completed—he has faced the truth, evil and weakness in himself and others—and has come out whole in his humanity. "Did you feel the rebirth in him? Were you aware of it?" Steinbeck asks in his letters. "Men do change, do learn, do grow."