There are no discussion questions to answer for the final installment, and as you can see from the readalong badge, I’m almost two weeks late finishing the book, anyway. For other discussion posts by others in the East of Eden Readalong, visit The Estella Society here. There are no spoilers here, but there will be some in other discussion posts so if you haven’t read East of Eden, watch out for spoilers (as well as for your brother)!
East of Eden is currently my nomination for the Great American Novel. (Is it better than The Grapes of Wrath? I don’t know, because I read that so long ago.) The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939, won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. According to Wikipedia, East of Eden, which was published in 1952, was “not well received by critics, who found it heavy-handed and unconvincing, especially in its use of Biblical allusion.” The Wikipedia article about East of Eden goes on to say, with a thumb of the nose to contemporary critics of the day: “Nevertheless, it became an instant bestseller in November 1952, a mere month after it was released, and is now considered one of Steinbeck’s finest achievements.”
Of course, in any book discussion, we want to talk about the ending with someone who shared the reading experience along with us, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it. The beauty of online readalongs is that I can just share this link to a blog post I stumbled across that says everything I would have said here and has saved me all the trouble of writing it myself:
You Must, You Shall, You May: The Ending of East of Eden written by Alex on the blog I Might Be Wrong.
East of Eden struck me as true to life, even with all the biblical allusions and parallels, because of the way that the lives of the main characters – Adam, Aron, and Cal – are shown to us with the attendant characters playing a large role and then disappearing from the story – even dying – or going away and eventually coming back. Most of us don’t go through life with the same people playing the same role the whole time, right?
I think East of Eden would appeal to family saga readers for the way it shows the passing of generations of a single family and its moments of high drama and long stretches of calm. Readers who like to delve into the psychology of the characters would also like it, with all the passages about personality traits, behavior, and heredity.
If you haven’t read it, don’t let the length of it scare you off! It’s a pretty fast-moving story. The biblical aspects we all keep mentioning are “bible as literature”-type references, so don’t let that scare you off either. The tone of East of Eden is agnostic, not at all preachy.