East of Eden | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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Course Hero. "East of Eden Study Guide." March 7, 2017. Accessed September 28, 2023. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/East-of-Eden/.


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East of Eden | Quotes


I love you better. I always have. That may be a bad thing to tell you but it's true.

Cyrus Trask, Part 1, Chapter 3

Cyrus has put his two children in the difficult position of being rivals because of his obvious preference for his older child, Adam. Charles tries to win his father's love, but Adam gets the attention every time, causing the unstable Charles to react violently toward Adam.


I didn't know then, but I know now—you were fighting for your love.

Adam Trask, Part 1, Chapter 7

After being away for 13 years and returning to learn their father has died, Adam Trask realizes Charles behaved as he did to try to earn their father's love, but to no avail.


To a criminal, honesty is foolish.

John Steinbeck, Part 1, Chapter 8

Some people, according to Steinbeck in describing Cathy's innate evil, are born not understanding what it is to love or care about someone. Such malformed individuals, or monsters, find it easy to do horrific things to others because doing the opposite is unthinkable to them, completely outside their nature.


She saw with satisfaction his nerves begin to go.

John Steinbeck, Part 1, Chapter 9

When Cathy chooses her victim, she makes the person believe he is not good enough for her, and everything he does should aim to please her, especially giving her money.


I could see it. You thought I would talk. Well, I'm talking.

Cathy, Part 1, Chapter 9

When Cathy drinks alcohol, anyone around her is fair game for cruel insults and possibly physical harm. Alcohol brings to the surface Cathy's generally quiet and hidden depravity, because she aims to make a person suffer as much as possible. Mr. Edwards will wish he hadn't made her drink.


He felt the warmth for his brother you can feel only for someone who is not perfect.

John Steinbeck, Part 1, Chapter 11

Charles is pleased to see Adam capable of doing stupid, illegal things as well, and this new knowledge about his brother makes him more relaxed around Adam. He feels no need to hate Adam at that point because Adam has become more real to him and closer to his equal.


Cathy had the one quality required of a great and successful criminal: she trusted no one, confided in no one.

John Steinbeck, Part 2, Chapter 15

Cathy was able to wait out her pregnancy to escape from her marriage, and treated her pregnancy like a sickness. By keeping everything to herself, she was able to get away with nearly anything.


Adam, I didn't want to come here. I am not going to stay here.

Cathy, Part 2, Chapter 15

Cathy is actually giving Adam a way out of the marriage and of his commitment to her, a rare action for her. However, he did save her life, so she is able to perform one gracious act, until she realizes he will not let her go.


Only twice in my life have I seen eyes like that—not like human eyes.

Samuel Hamilton, Part 2, Chapter 16

Samuel looks at Cathy and immediately senses something is wrong with her, so wrong it reminds him of an incident in his childhood when he saw a criminal being hanged. The look is pure evil, and it terrifies Samuel enough to make him shiver.


Act out being alive, like a play. And after a while ... it will be true.

Samuel Hamilton, Part 2, Chapter 18

These words are Samuel Hamilton's advice to Adam for overcoming Cathy's betrayal as well as for taking care of the twins. Adam doesn't understand why he should bother to do either. His depression is so deep that Samuel and Lee have to jolt him into action once his shoulder has healed from the bullet wound.


I will warn you now that not their blood but your suspicion might build evil in them.

Samuel Hamilton, Part 2, Chapter 22

Adam Trask is worried the evil he never saw in Cathy will be in his boys, but Samuel tells him that what he expects of his sons will be the strongest force in them.


But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—'Thou mayest'—that gives a choice.

Lee, Part 3, Chapter 24

Timshel resonates through the novel as the concept that saves a person from the evil influences of rejection or lack of love, because each person has a choice and may control what they do.


The whole camp became my mother. It is a beauty—a dreadful kind of beauty.

Lee, Part 3, Chapter 28

Lee tells Adam the story of his birth in a rairoad camp where his mother hid herself in men's clothes and worked alongside his father but was discovered and torn to pieces. When his father lifted him from his dead mother, the camp realized what they had done and took care of him. The incident shows another aspect of father-son relationships: of Lee's father's shielding him from horror and others assuming the father role.


Whatever you do, it will be you who do it—not your mother.

Lee, Part 4, Chapter 38

Cal tells Lee about his mother and hates her because her blood is in him and believes his evil impulses are her fault. Lee sets him straight by telling him he is responsible for his own actions, no matter who or what his mother is.


And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good.

Lee, Part 4, Chapter 53

Abra has been trying to be the idealized woman Aron wanted her to be. Because she is not that person, she thinks she is bad. When she discovers she loves Cal, loves Lee like a father, and is loved back by both men, she is able to let go of the created image and be herself.

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