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East of Eden

East of Eden - John Steinbeck

I liked East of Eden. I was surprised by the fact that some of the commentary in it seemed as if it could have been written last week.

The reason I'm giving it four stars rather than five is because it had two aspects that bugged me. Characters that exist almost solely to be the voice of the author irk me and always have (I remember vividly my first encounter with this in Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter). I also found Abra's character a little flat. They kept praising her as a good person, but I didn't really see anything particularly virtuous about her. Also, there is nothing subtle at all about the symbolism, and Steinbeck makes no apologies for that. As a professor friend of mine said, he feels this book is a good introduction to symbolism for those who've never studied it before, because it's almost impossible to miss.

Despite those minor drawbacks, I enjoyed the novel. It's well worth reading if only to acquaint oneself with a classic from one of America's most noted authors. I found Chapter 46 especially relevant: although it has little to do with the book's overall themes, Steinbeck's German could easily be our Muslim today. East of Eden was published in 1952, almost 60 years ago at the time of this writing, and, depressingly, it seems we haven't changed a bit in certain ways. The old adage about those who cannot remember the past being condemned to repeat it comes to mind.

I need a little more time to ruminate and to let it sink in before I make any firm conclusions.