Pascal "Pat" Covici and Steinbeck's friendship began when Pat published Tortilla Flat (1935). As Steinbeck wrote Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters, he often mentioned the things he was tinkering with or building around the house. At one point, Pat asked Steinbeck to make him a box; Steinbeck joked that the only specification was that Pat shouldn't be able to fit inside it.

When Steinbeck finished East of Eden, he placed his 250,000 word manuscript into a mahogany box he had carved and sent it to Pat. The note he placed on top became the dedication page of the novel.

Dear Pat,
You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said, "Why don't you make something for me?"
I asked you what you wanted, and you said, "A box."
"What for?"
"To put things in."
"What things?"
"Whatever you have," you said.
Well, here's your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts—the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.
And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you.
And still, the box is not full.
Steinbeck's inspiration for the novel comes from the Bible, the fourth chapter of the book of Genesis, verses one through sixteen, which recounts the story of Cain and Abel. The title, East of Eden, was chosen by Steinbeck from Genesis, Chapter 4, verse 16.

"The man has intercourse with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, 'I have acquired a man with the help of Yahweh,' she said. She gave birth to a second child, Abel, the brother of Cain. Now Abel became a shepherd and kept flocks, while Cain tilled the soil. Time passed and Cain brought some of the produce of the soil as an offering for Yahweh, while Abel for his part brought the first-born of his flock and some of their fat as well. Yahweh looked with favor on Abel and his offering. But he did not look with favor on Cain and his offering, and Cain was very cross and downcast. Yahweh asked Cain, 'Why are you angry and downcast? If you are doing right, surely you ought to hold your head high! But if you are not doing right, Sin is crouching at the door hungry to get you. You can still master him.' Cain said to his brother Abel, 'Let us go out'; and while they were in the open country, Cain set on his brother Abel and killed him.

"Yahweh asked Cain, 'Where is your brother Abel?' 'I do not know,' he replied. 'Am I my brother's guardian?' 'What have you done?' Yahweh asked. 'Listen! Your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground. Now be cursed and banned from the ground that has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood at your hands. When you till the ground it will no longer yield its strength to you. A restless wanderer you will be on earth.' Cain then said to Yahweh, 'My punishment is greater than I can bear. Look, today you drive me from the surface of the earth, I must hide from you, and be a restless wanderer on the earth. Why, whoever comes across me will kill me!' 'Very well then,' Yahweh replied, 'Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.' So Yahweh put a mark on Cain, so that no one coming across him would kill him. Cain left Yahweh's presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden."

From The New Jerusalem Bible
  • Cyrus Trask
  • Charles, Cyrus's son by Alice
  • Cathy Ames, marries Adam and sleeps with Charles
  • Cathy's son Caleb, Aron's twin, raised by Adam

  • Alice Trask, Cyrus' second wife
  • Adam, Cyrus' son by his first wife
  • Abra Bacon, falls in love at first with Aron, then with Caleb
  • Cathy's son Aron, Caleb's twin, raised by Adam
1. The Silver Chalice by Thomas B. Costain
2. The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
3. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
4. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
5. Steamboat Gothic by Frances Parkinson Keyes
6. Giant by Edna Ferber
7. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
8. The Gown of Glory by Agnes Sligh Turnbull
9. The Saracen Blade by Frank Yerby
10. The Houses in Between by Howard Spring

1. The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Translation
2. A Man Called Peter by Catherine Marshall
3. U.S.A. Confidential by Jack Lait and Lett Mortimer
4. The Sea Around Us by Rachel L. Carson
5. Tallulah by Tallulah Bankhead
6. The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale
7. This I Believe, Edward P. Morgan, editor; Weward R. Murrow, forward
8. This Is Ike, Wilson Hicks, editor
9. Witness by Whitaker Chamber
10. Mr. President by William Hellman

[Source: Publishers Weekly from People Entertainment Almanac, 2000]
Film: East of Eden became a best-seller, making it a natural for the movies. The film version of East of Eden was directed and produced by Elia Kazan (who also directed Steinbeck's Viva Zapata! screenplay in 1952) and starred James Dean as "Cal." The film opens at approximately Chapter 37 in Part Four of the novel. Shot partly in Salinas, California, it was finished and released in 1955. The movie has now reached the stature of a classic. The Bantam paperback edition scaled new heights on the strength of the James Dean movie version and became a multi-million-copy best-seller.

Television: East of Eden was adapted for television and presented on February 8, 9 and 11 in 1981 by ABC, starring Jane Seymour.

Musical Theater: The musical version of East of Eden, "Here's Where I Belong," opened March 3, 1968 at the Billy Rose Theater and closed after one showing.

Theater: East of Eden, a new adaptation for the stage, was performed at Steinbeck Festivals XI and XV by The Western Stage Company of Hartnell College. It was also performed in a shorter version at the Louisville Theater.



Next Story