Monday, February 2, 2009

East of Eden- post 6- Good versus Evil

What is an interesting way that the concept of Good versus Evil comes into play in the novel? How does this concept connect with the message of the novel as a whole? Include a quote and page number in your analytical response.


  1. An interesting scenario of good versus evil is with Caleb and his inner thoughts. He believes that he has recieved all the characteristics of his mother of being evil, and is jealous of his good or 'perfect' brother Aron. The evil thoughts that lurk his mind battle with his everday feelings of becoming a genuine person. Connecting to the story as a whole, the message the book sends is that everyone has good within them. No matter the bad things Caleb or anyone has done, or what background he/she has come from, everyone is capable of good. On page 542 Lee says to Cal, "it was the only way he knew. He had no choice. But you have. Don't you hear me?" This explains how people believe in Caleb and how he truly is a great person at heart.

    Brett Speranzella 2/3/09

  2. The concept of good versos evil shows up in East of Eden when Charles and Adam debate over what to do with the money they inheritade from their mysterious father. In this argument, Charles wants to ask the army how their father got this money. If they found out that he stole it, Charles would give the money up. This would be an act of kindness because it is like if someone found a wallet on the ground they would turn it into the police. On the other hand, Adam is the opposing force. He wants to keep the money for their own gain.
    "Charles was breathing heavily. 'Then you would take the money?'
    'Of course.'
    'Even if he stole it?' (Steinbeck 70).
    This battle versus good and evil is interesting because throughout the rest of the novel, Charles seems like the evil force. In the beginning he beats Adam and later on he even sleeps with Adam's wife.

    -Andrew Licht-

  3. John Steinbeck's East of Eden is a novel that tells 2 generations worth of a Cain and Abel story. It follows Adam Trask's sons, Cal and Aron (Cain and Abel) and in a sense shows Cal's struggle with his inner darkness, and his desire to do the right thing. Cal always says things like "I want to be good." and somehow always ends up doing more harm than good. Aron on the other hand, has this ominous aura about him. He is smarter, and the more favored by his father Aron, just as Cain was more favored by God. Because of this, Cal becomes something of an attention getter. This meaning that he always tries to stand out in a crowd.
    "Don't let me be mean". This quote is actually very powerful. In various instances, Cal says this in his head, to try and hold back his inner urges to bully his brother Aron. Cal manages to keep a lid on his evil side by saying this. Later however, he tells Aron the truth about their mother. Aron goes off to war, and is killed in actiojn, so in a way, Cal killed his brother.
    Cathy could also be described as evil. First she manipulated Adam and had children with him, then she shot him in the stomach and ran off. Cathy embodies temptation, the evil side. See, she is a prostitute, proven when, despite being married to Adam, she sleeps with his brother Charles. Through this action, Charles also comes to represent inner darkness. One could say that Cathy represent the snake in the Garden of Eden, who tempted Eve with knowledge. Despite the fact that Adam risks his life to protect her and nurse her back to health, she still betrays him in the end. That's all for this one.

    -Jason A.

  4. Good verses evil was a very common them in East of Eden. I think that the reader catagorizes a character as good or evil based on their actions. In this book a character's actions have a lot to do with whether they are accepted or rejected by the person they love. They may not be able to control the rejection, but they can control their own resulting actions. This is where the whole "Timshel" theme comes into play. Timshel means "thou mayest' and it is very important to the development of the novel because it embodies the idea that people are not born evil. The bible passage in Hebrew reads "Thou mayest rule over sin." A person can choose whether or not they want to be good or evil. This idea is seen most obviously in the development of Cal. He thought that he was all evil and Aron was all good. He though that because his mother was evil, he was doomed to be evil. He is wrong and Adam lets him know that at the end of the book. When Lee asks for Cal's forgiveness from Adam, Adam says, "Timshel" (600). That is Adam's last word in the book and it opens up a better future for Cal. Adam lets Cal know that his own character is up to him and him alone. He makes the choices.

    -Ginny Cousens

  5. Are any of the characters purely good or evil? Or is every one a mix of the two? Is a person not human if he does not have both? Does Timshel, the choice, make us human?

  6. Steinback’s novel “East of Eden” follows three generations of families in the Salinas Valley. The good versus evil concept is laced into the story in a “Cain and Abel” manner, in which Charles and Caleb are inherently evil with Adam and Aron being the kindhearted oppositions. Cyrus and Trace Trask have two sons, Charles and Adam. Charles strives to be the quintessential son, attacking all the tasks of which he thinks his father would be proud. Adam is the kind opposition; he lives merely to be good, and does not go to the same lengths to please his father. Adams two sons, Caleb and Aron have the same dynamic as Charlie and Adam, respectively.
    The relationships they form with each other strengthen their very different personalities. Charlie and Caleb become more angry and aggressive while Adam and Aron become more caring and passive. This concept relates to the novel as a whole because it shows that personality is formed through relationships, and you have the will to change your personality. Later the narrator says, “And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. (131)” This quote reveals that though experiences and relationships strengthen personality, it only you who can control your actions and opinions. By opposing each other the brothers are more able to see who they want to be, and eventually learn that they control themselves and their thoughts and personalities are free.

    ~ joanna ostrosky

  7. Good versus Evil is a reoccuring theme that occurs in the book East of Eden. The characters are forced to make difficult decisions in which are either good or evil. It is interesting to see the regrets and consequences that unfold at the end of the story. The message this book shows is that good and evil decisions can lead to life or death consequences.

    -Sam Friday

  8. Good vs Evil is a huge part of East of Eden because it is shown through a few characters in the novel and not just one. The responses above are well-thought out and show a really good insight on the different characters who go through the decisions needed to be seen as good or evil. The book also relates to the biblical story of Cain and Abel because Cal and Aron are almost like Cain and Abel. Abel is good while Cain is evil because he kills his brother Abel. Aron is the good son in the novel and Cal is supposedly the evil son. They may seem like they represent Cain and Abel, but a major theme of this book is "Timshel" which means "thou mayest", showing that people have the choice to change and are able to. Cal goes through this decision making and at the end, he does change and is not the evil son anymore.
    -Marissa S.

  9. The idea of good vs. evil, in my opinion, is the most significant theme in the novel. Every character is either had goodness, evil, or struggles between the two. Two sets of characters in particular share a relationship that relates to the Cain and Abel story – Charles and Adam, and Caleb and Aron. Even characters who did not relate to this biblical story showed signs of goodness or evil, such as Cathy, Samuel, Cyrus, Lee, and even the smaller characters in the story. Even between the two families discussed in the story – the Hamiltons and Trasks.

    The second question that Ms. Coppens posted later – asking if any characters are purely good or evil – is a very thought-provoking idea. I believe that there are very few characters who are purely one or the other, I see most of them as a mix of the two. Cathy is obviously a character who is purely evil. From her childhood, she knew herself that she had the ability to take control over people. As a child, he appeared to people with having a “face of innocence” (73). The only people who saw through her evil behavior were the ones who got to know her well, and I believe that it was for this reason that she did not want to have a family. I feel like she was afraid to get to too close to anyone and have her true identity discovered. It took Adam years to see that Cathy was not worth him huffing over. From the narrators point of view, Cathy was “possessed by the devil” (73), and her he saw her as so monstrous that she shouldn’t be considered human. This leads into the next part of the question, if not being purely evil or good makes one not human. I don’t agree with this. I just see it as Cathy having a power to manipulate others, and that’s just her personality and behavior. Even if she was aware of timshel, she would still likely choose the evil path in life.

    A character like Caleb is probably the one who struggles the most between good and evil. He began his life following evil, but, after much struggling, was able to overcome it. By embracing the idea of timshel, he chooses goodness over evil in life. After fearing that he would fall to evil from the influences of Cathy in his life and struggling with jealously of his brother to gain love from from his father, he is finally able to break free from what the audience would have expected him to. However, he ultimately does complete the Cain and Abel story with Aron –by telling Aron the truth about their mother, he causes Aron to enlist in the Army, where he is killed. So, in a way, Caleb indirectly kills his brother by sending him too the army. The goodness that Caleb chooses to embrace is, in the end, the cause of his brothers own downfall.


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