East of Eden
by John Steinbeck

Synopsis

This synopsis will contain spoilers!

Samuel Hamilton left Ireland and ended up on Salinas Valley, California. With his wife Liza, he settled on a bad piece of land and started a family (having 8 children in total). Since his land did not produce crops well, Samuel was forced to make his living as a blacksmith, an inventor, and by drilling for water. With so many children, and with so little desire to make money, the family stayed poor. Samuel was a handsome man full of life, big ideas, and humor.

Adam Trask was born in Connecticut in 1862. His mother died during the birth, leaving Cyrus alone to take care of Adam and his brother Charles. Cyrus works as a military advisor (in spite of limited service). Charles realizes Adam is his father's favorite when he buys him a beautiful watch, which Cyrus ignores in favor of the stray dog that Adam gives as a gift. Charles beats and nearly kills his brother. Adam leaves to join the army, where he serves 2 tours. Afterwards, he lives as a vagabond rather than returning home. Arrested, and twice forced to work on road gangs, he eventually escapes and returns home. Cyrus has died and left the boys with over $100,000.

Cathy is a disturbed young woman. She learns at a young age how to manipulate and control those around her. She drugs her parents and set the house on fire, also planting evidence in the barn that she has been killed. Cathy leaves and joins a local whore house, where she becomes the favorite of Mr. Edwards, the man who runs multiple whore houses across the east coast. He gets her drunk one night, and her normal inhibitions are dropped, causing her to reveal her manipulations. He takes her out and beats her mercilessly. Nearly dead, she drags her body to the Trask doorstep.

Adam and Charles take Cathy in, but Charles is hesitant to trust her. Adam immediately falls in love, and eventually asks her to marry him. Wounded and desperate, Cathy agrees. After a fight with his brother, Adam decides to take Cathy to Salinas Valley. Before they leave, Cathy sleeps with Charles one night when he is drunk.

Adam buys a beautiful piece of land and meets Samuel when he is brought out to determine if there is water to be found on the property. Cathy is pregnant, and it is decided that Samuel will deliver the baby (as he is known to have delivered all his children and many others in the area). While riding to the Trask ranch with Lee, Samuel forces Lee (Adam's household servant) to reveal that he only speaks in broken English because that is what is expected of him. In reality, he is an intelligent, scholarly man.

Cathy is in labor and Samuel comes to help. During the labor, Cathy bites Samuel on his hand. Otherwise, the delivery goes well, but everyone is surprised when she delivers twins. Cathy refuses to take the children and sends them away. Liza Hamilton helps take care of the boys and gets the house in order, but Cathy refuses to nurse them. Once she has recovered, Cathy tells Adam she is leaving. He tries to stop her, but she shoots him in the shoulder. Upon leaving she joins a whore house in Salinas. Adam is devastated and Lee becomes the day to day father of the two boys.

A year later and Adam has physically recovered, but he still has not given his boys names. Realizing this, Samuel goes to him and punches him until he realizes he most take responsibility for his children. A long discussion is had about the story of Cain and Abel, and the confusion surrounding God's acceptance of Abel's gift, but not Cain's. Ultimately, it is decided the boys will be Aaron (later shortened to Aron) and Caleb (Cal).

Slowly and methodically, Cathy fulfills a plan that allows her to murder the current owner of the whore house and then to take over. At around 5, Cal and Aron meet Abra, the daughter of a local resident. Aron falls in love and declares he will marry her. Soon after they move to Salinas proper, where Aron and Abra become close friends. Charles dies, leaving his money to Adam and Cathy (he is not aware that they are separated). Adam tells Cathy, allowing her to take the money much to her confusion. Adam engages in a risky business proposition that results in him losing nearly all his money.

Cal, during one of this late night walks around town, overhears from a drunk man that his mother is still alive, and runs a whore house in town. He goes there and sees his mother. He begins following her until she confronts him one day. With the U.S. about to enter into WWI, Cal strikes a deal with Will Hamilton to get farmers to plant beans at a guaranteed rate of $.05/lb. As the war starts they are able to sell them to the British for $.12/lb. Cal makes over $15,000. He chooses to give this money to his father. Aron, meanwhile, has gone off to college a year early.

Cal chooses to give the money to his father on Thanksgiving when Aron has returned from school. Adam is immensely proud of Aron and his education, but when Cal gives him the money he is not happy. He believes Cal stole the money, and when he learns the truth, he believes Cal took advantage of the farmers and should give it back. Furious for being scorned, Cal takes Aron and shows him their mother. Unable to deal with the truth, Aron joins the army and is sent overseas. Cal burns the money.

Cathy, meanwhile, learns that one of the girls knows that she murdered the former owner. She has the girl run out of town, but she begins to worry that someone will believe her story. When Cal brings Aron to the house, she becomes even more distraught. She soon commits suicide to escape her fears.

Aron is killed in battle, and Adam has a stroke upon learning the news. Cal and Abra (who are now in love) go to Adam at Lee's beckoning. Lee yells at Adam to speak to his son and forgive him for what has happened. Adam, unable to speak and completely bed ridden, lifts his hand slightly to bless Cal. Then, with a great surge of effort, speaks the word Timshel to Cal before falling to sleep.

Reviews

East of Eden - Paperback

There are so many good things that can be said about East of Eden that it is hard to know where to start, so I'll start with something simple ...

- Sept. 29, 2009

Quotes

"And I made a promise to myself that I would not consider enjoyment a sin. I take a pleasure in inquiring into things. I've never been content to pass a stone without looking under it. And it is a black disappointment to me that I can never see the far side of the moon".

John Steinbeck in East of Eden

"The Salinas Valley is in Northern California."

John Steinbeck the First Line of East of Eden

"His eyes closed and he slept."

John Steinbeck the Last Line of in East of Eden

Originally Published Sept. 1, 1952

Paperback edition:

691 pages - Oct. 25, 1979

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