East of Eden tells the story of Adam Trask who comes to live in Salinas Valley, California with his wife Cathy Trask. Adam's dreams are shattered when he and his newborn twins are abandoned by the love of his life. The story follows Adam's journey in life from his childhood to his death bed while showing the transformation in his character. In parallel, runs the story of the Hamilton family residing in a barren land in Salinas Valley and the role it plays in Adam’s life.
The story is spread across a vast timeline to cover the lifetimes of two generations. It is primarily set in the Salinas Valley been beautifully and vividly described by the author. The flashback is set in Connecticut in which Adam's childhood is spent. The times described in the novel range from mid 19 century, before the American Civil War, to the First World War.
East of Eden is a third-person narrative in which the author is the narrator. The author also plays a small character in the story but doesn't influence the story. The narration is extremely detailed and many times the author digresses from the central characters of the novel to narrate the lives of the supporting characters. The characterization is superb and shines out in the characters of Adam and Cathy. Allegories have been used throughout the novel. Adam and Charles and Caleb and Aron symbolize Cain and Able. Adam and Cathy symbolize Adam and Eve. A philosophical mood prevails throughout the novel as if the author wanted the readers to contemplate on various subjects.
East of Eden is a novel to be savored. It has so much to offer that one cannot absorb all of it in one read. It is a novel to be read and reread and each time it will offer you something extra. I personally found the discussions around the Bible very interesting and enlightening. It made we wonder that the human race has descended from Cain who represents the evil. Abel never lived to raise a family. Could this be the reason that we all have an evil streak in us? You see this is what the novel does to a reader. On the flip-side, the novel demands your patience because it's too lengthy and detailed. I found the chapters on the Hamilton family too elaborate and unnecessary. However, the story of the central characters is so interesting and emotional that I stayed interested because I really wanted to know how the author treats them in the end. This Nobel Prize winner is a treat for literature lovers as it offers a lot for study and analysis.
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