I’m supposed to be farther along than I am in East of Eden by John Steinbeck, so I’m going to do a quick discussion post and get back to reading, although it may be too late for me to catch up! For other discussion posts by others who have reached this checkpoint in the East of Eden Readalong, visit The Estella Society here.
Now, on to the discussion questions for Chapters 14-27. There will be some spoilers if you haven’t read this book, but not too many:
1. What do you think of the characters’ growth and/or change in this section? Specifically, Adam, Cathy/Kate, and Lee have all had some big things happen.
I was surprised that Charles dropped by the wayside once Adam moved west, but I guess his part in the story had already been played and his influence on Adam’s future would eventually be felt from afar. I had less empathy for Cathy/Kate in this section because even though the narrator tells us her evil nature is genetic and not her fault, it’s impossible not to recoil from a person like her. Lee and Samuel – growing old separately and not seeing each other often – are the most sympathetic of all the main characters and are the role models Adam needs.
2. Lee is quickly becoming an important and insightful character. What do you think of his insights and his thoughts on language and his ethnicity?
I love Lee and his sharp insights into human nature and how people think about people who are different from them! At first I thought how unfortunate it was that he remains a servant for so long, caught in a trap of responsibility and love (?) for the neglected twins, and I wish he weren’t so subservient, but his intelligence finds an outlet soon enough and his selfless nature makes seem more powerful than Adam, despite being his servant.
3. The Cain and Abel and the importance of narrative continues to take on more prominence. How so?
The Cain and Abel story is deceptively simple, and there is light shed on it in this section, but this question is too complicated to go into now! I need to get back to reading. Look to see if others have answered this question better, or go read the book yourself!
4. How do you perceive Samuel now that he’s gone? Was he just a device for delivering advice?
Nooooooooo! I am so sad at this point. I don’t perceive Samuel as a mere plot device, at all! He confessed something at the end, but that made him seem all the more valiant and pure-hearted to me. He was much more than a talker or dispenser of advice, he was a father and a do-er.
5. Cathy/Kate…expound. There will probably be one of these at every checkpoint because OMGthatwoman.
Without Cathy/Kate, Cal and Aron would not have been born. That may, in the end, have been a good thing for all concerned, but from her conscience-less existence, two new lives have sprung; given the parallels drawn between Cal and Aron and Cain and Abel, odds are good that one of those lives (poor Cal and poor Aron) will be very, very bad.
6. Anything else?
One character I would have liked to see more of, and hope that we will in the remainder of the book, is Liza Hamilton, Samuel’s wife, whom he calls “Mother”. This passage is from Chapter 16:
“Samuel came in from the yard where he had been washing himself. His face and beard gleamed with water, and he turned down the sleeves of his blue shirt as he entered the kitchen. Rolled-up sleeves at the table were not acceptable to Mrs. Hamilton. They indicated either an ignorance or a flouting of the niceties.
‘I’m late, Mother,’ Samuel said.
She did not look around at him. Her spatula moved like a striking snake and the hot cakes settled their white sides hissing on the soapstone. ‘What time was it you came home?’ she asked.
‘Oh, it was late – late. Must have been near eleven. I didn’t look, fearing to waken you.’
‘I did not waken,’ Liza said grimly. ‘And maybe you can find it healthy to rove all night, but the Lord God will do what He sees fit about that.’ It was well known that Liza Hamilton and the Lord God held similar convictions on nearly every subject. She turned and reached and a plate of crisp hot cakes lay between Tom’s hands. ‘How does the Sanchez place look?’ she asked.