Tuesday, May 25, 2010

East of Eden: Part Three/Part Four, John Steinbeck

I was amazed at how quickly 600 pages was completed. I guess that is the sign of an impressive novel. Of an outstanding author. Many novels that read so quickly are part of the Dan Brown/John Grisham formula. But, I guess in the rare case, a classic can have the same "unputdownable" effect.

As the novel continued the large cast of characters started to fade a little bit more into the background. Or, perhaps, I just became so familiar with their names and stories I no longer struggled with the 'who is this?' and 'how are they connected?' issues from earlier in the novel.

I wonder if Steinbeck was successful in his purpose of the novel. If Steinbeck wished to create Cal as a modern day Cain, I feel he failed. If Steinbeck wished to show that evil matures, calms, and struggles, I feel he succeeded. Is it up to me to decide? Or, should it be more clear? This might be my only issue with the novel as a whole.

I was surprised to see a slightly feminist twist to the novels end, too. The character of Kate doesn't end the way so many classical ladies have ended. Steinbeck gives Kate control and power throughout the novel. Never once turning her into a caricature or a moral. She was by far the strongest, most interesting character.

There is so much to say. So many things to ask. But, in the end, it is how long a piece of fiction lasts. Reading through the novel I spent a lot of time applying the brothers, Cal and Aron, to my own relationship with my brother. It was alarming how well Steinbeck creates siblings. The struggles, envies, and bonds.

And, for me, the true test of a great novel... tears. It is rare for me to cry from fiction. But, with one single line, Steinbeck was successful... all great and precious things are lonely.

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