Last night, in a mammoth reading marathon, I finished East of Eden by John Steinbeck. It’s a big book, and a bit intimidating to pick up (600 pages! and NO pictures?!?) but a librarian friend suggested it and all her other suggestions so far have been right on, so I decided to give it a go. The book has reoccurring threads of tragedy but is satisfying overall. Steinbeck’s writing is pretty amazing throughout the book. He does an amazingly good job of capturing the human spirit and drive. If Steinbeck had a blog, I imagine it being very popular.
There’s a running theme through the book that parallels the Cain and Abel story… good, evil, and the choice between the two. I would consider myself an amateur reader and probably didn’t pick up on a lot of the depth in the book. The most exciting ‘easter egg’ that I found was that the two generations of brothers in the book: Charles & Adam and Cal & Aron, both share the same first letters and characteristics as Cain & Abel.
This might seem extremely obvious when explained outright (especially considering that Steinbeck opening discussed Cain & Abel in the book)… but it was a major “Whoa!” as I was reading the book. I bet there was a lot of really deep symbolism too… but I just stink at finding it.
I always disliked my high school teachers who tried and get us to try and find meaning in books. I always believed that it was far more likely that the writer just wanted to write a story, than the possibility that all this deep symbolism was legit. I still believe that the biggest reason for reading fiction should be for enjoyment… but I’m beginning to understand that the author’s purpose may very well have been to share an idea not just a tale of adventure.
I wish my English teachers had spent some time addressing this*. Without that understanding I often times pushed their knowledge off as rubbish.
*it is quite possible that they did discuss this and I just wasn’t paying attention. I disliked English class profusely.