East of Eden
Adam Trask has had nothing short of a rough childhood. His mother died before he was old enough to know her, and his father has forced a military lifestyle on Adam and his step-brother Charles. Adam, who has never been competitive, hates the lifestyle and resents his father, but Charles is envious of the love their father gives to Adam, even though Charles is the stronger, tougher child. Eventually, Charles nearly kills Adam out of jealousy, and Adam heads off into the army at his father's request while Charles remains at home. After leaving the army, Adam is lost and wanders for years before coming back home to Charles. One day, a terribly wounded girl shows up on the brothers' doorstep, and Adam falls in love with her. After nursing the girl, Cathy, back to health, Adam marries her and they head off to California to start a new life. However, Adam doesn't see that Cathy doesn't really love him and is only using him to get her strength back. Once in California, Adam and his new servant, Lee, befriend a family of Irish immigrants, the Hamiltons. As time passes, Adam and his children struggle with their pasts, ultimately leading to many characters' demise.
Sorry for the somewhat rough synopsis (and questions, once you get there)....this book was so long and complicated that it is hard to sum it up. Throughout the story, so many characters are followed for significant lengths of time that it makes it hard even to say who the story is even about. Also, it is hard to discern what the final conflict will be until you are 2/3 of the way through the book, so it is hard to set it up without giving too much away. Anyway, I read this book for my AP English class, and after my initial doubts, I did wind up enjoying the book. At times, the story can be dry, especially when Steinbeck is simply describing the general way of life at the beginning of each "part" of the book, but once the multitude of main characters are introduced, the pace picks up. Still, most of the book was about everyday life of a large cast of characters instead of a straightforward plot, so for me the book was less enjoyable than some of the other recent fiction I have read, but the story definitely had more "deeper meaning" in it than my typical reads.
Questions for Thought:
1. Which Hamilton child are you most like? Why?
2. Were you Lee or Samuel, how would you go about getting Adam to acknowledge his children?
3. Who is to blame for the tragic end to the story? Cal? Adam? Cyrus? Cathy?
4. How would you react if you found out your mother was Cathy/Kate?
5. Was Abra right to stay with Aron so long, even though she knew that he didn't really love her?
Please leave your comments and answers!
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