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Noble Distractions => Paper Mill => Topic started by: madali on May 06, 2013, 06:22:PM

Title: East of Eden (John Steinbeck, 1952)
Post by: madali on May 06, 2013, 06:22:PM
East of Eden (John Steinbeck, 1952)

"Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in music, in art, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man."

With John Steinbeck’s book, “The Grapes of Wrath”, I came to better appreciate what America is today and the great struggle Americans made in living there. In “East of Eden”, the American story is still there, but it is something much more, it is more than now a national story, it becomes a truly human story.

"You see, there’s a responsibility in being a person. It’s more than just taking up space where air would be. What are you like?”


“East of Eden” has many different characters, and the book moves from one generation of people to the next, living their lives and deaths, and moving away from the main characters to side characters and their stories, and there is something hopeful and beautiful about everything.

"We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is."


Steinbeck gets inside people’s lives and their emotions, and the monumental emotions inside each of us. Its sometimes astounding for me to realize that the billions of people that exist, they all have the complexities inside them that I do. I, as one person, understand the limitations of my understanding of myself, and no amount of honesty with myself will solve this, because as a person, everything is so vast inside of me, that it is impossible to ever have a complete understand of it. What’s extraordinary to contemplate is that I’m just one person, and you then consider all the billions of people living today and billions of people that have ever lived, and it becomes staggering.

“When you’re a child you’re the center of every­thing. Everything happens for you. Other people? They’re only ghosts furnished for you to talk to. But when you grow up you take your place and you’re your own size and shape. Things go out of you to others and come in from other people. It’s worse, but it’s much better too."


This vastness, this uniqueness, this ocean of complexity of emotions and understanding in each person is beautiful to ponder, because it makes realize how much humanity is. “East of Eden” throughout all its family drams, and I might even say sometimes a bit melodrama, is a celebration of this, a celebration of existing as we exist.

"“Don’t you see?” he cried. “The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’—that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’ Don’t you see?”"

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"No one who is young is ever going to be old."

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"“I think this is the best-known story in the world because it is every­body’s story. I think it is the symbol story of the human soul. I’m feeling my way now—don’t jump on me if I’m not clear. The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears. I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt—and there is the story of mankind. I think that if rejection could be amputated, the human would not be what he is. Maybe there would be fewer crazy people. I am sure in myself there would not be many jails. It is all there—the start, the beginning. One child, refused the love he craves, kicks the cat and hides his secret guilt; and another steals so that money will make him loved; and a third conquers the world—and always the guilt and revenge and more guilt. The human is the only guilty animal. Now wait! Therefore I think this old and terrible story is important because it is a chart of the soul—the secret, rejected, guilty soul."

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"And my father became very Chinese then. He said, There’s more beauty in the truth even if it is dreadful beauty. The storytellers at the city gate twist life so that it looks sweet to the lazy and the stupid and the weak, and this only strengthens their infirmities and teaches nothing, cures nothing, nor does it let the heart soar.’"

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"A child may ask, “What is the world’s story about?” And a grown man or woman may wonder, “What way will the world go? How does it end and, while we’re at it, what’s the story about?” I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one, that has frightened and inspired us, so that we live in a Pearl White serial of continuing thought and won­der. Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their ava­rice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any changes we may impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and man­ners. There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?"

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"In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror. It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world."


5/5