Friday, May 21, 2010

East of Eden: Part Two, John Steinbeck

Some of the character confusion of Part One still lingers in Part Two. My biggest issue with the “epic novel” is the large cast of characters. I always trip over character names. In postmodern fiction, the story is so much about the I/me and those who fall outside of this are just background… or, less significant at least. But, in East of Eden, everyone seems to be important. Or, Steinbeck has created them with equal significance. This leads to the issue of ‘who am I reading about?’ and ‘how do they relate to the rest of the characters?’ This is a problem I come across in Russian literature, but at least in Russian literature a list of characters is present at the novel’s start.

Much of this section focuses on the start of the Trask farm. Adam and Cathy have found their home and Cathy is ready to give birth. The Hamiltons exist purely for contrast to the Trasks at this point. I am still uncertain if the Hamiltons will carry more meaning than just symbolism. They aren’t purely background, but they certainly figure less in the plot.

Cathy/Kate is the most interesting character. Critics have argued she is too extreme a character. Many believe Steinbeck created a woman unlikely to exist and that her evil is unrealistic. But, I don’t really see her as evil. I see her as smart and broken. Most of classic literature turns these women into morals. I assume Kate will die some horrid death due to her love for sex, blood, and money. But, until then, I really enjoy her progression.


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