East of Eden by John Steinbeck

East of Eden

East of Eden is a novel set in the Salinas Valley, California, that follows the intertwined destinies of two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons. The novel explores universal human themes such as love, lust, family legacy, sin, and free will.

Steinbeck’s inspiration for the novel comes from the fourth chapter 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: “And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the Land of Nod, on the east of Eden” (King James Version).

The main themes of the novel include good, evil, and the human soul; time; family, love, and loneliness; religion, myth, and the power of stories; and identity. Although one of the fundamental ideas in East of Eden is that evil is an innate and inescapable human problem, the novel also sets forth hope that each individual has the freedom to overcome evil by his or her own choice.

Useful takeaways:

  • Humanity is flawed, but we have the freedom to seek redemption.
  • Love comes with pain, rejection, and loneliness.
  • Family legacy can be both a blessing and a curse.
  • Religion and myth play a powerful role in shaping our identities.
  • Good and evil are inherent in human nature, but we have the power to choose which path to follow.

What I Liked

Everything – absolutely everything. This novel truly hit me like a ton of bricks after I read it. This has to be one of the greatest novels in history.

What I Did Not Like

Nothing. Though be forewarned that there’s quite a few characters to keep up with. It’s so well written that I never had any issue (and I usually do in multi-character books), but still.

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