I finished East of Eden last night, after making it through my first Fantasy Football Draft. That’s right, I FINISHED A BOOK ON MY LIST. Here are some quick thoughts, as I am already weaving the words together of a new post that I really want to get out.
(I read from the Steinbeck Centennial Edition [1902-2002], 2002)
Minor disappointment: Editing/proofreading errors.
-While I did find more than the following, this is the only error I can pick out with a quick flip through of the pages (I always circle errors I find): “The others didn’t even know they needed him. he had the ability to get money and to keep it.” Should the period be in that place? Should “he” be capitalized? If you have a different edition than I do, please let me know how this phrase differs; in mine the error occurs at the top of page 476. To be honest, errors like this don’t entirely overwhelm me with frustration. Because guess what, a human edited this, a human wrote it; if it is perfect then no, I won’t stumble over the wording, but then again if it’s not perfect and not a complete abomination of the writing and language then I can find it in my heart to get over it by the time I get to the next line.
Most admirable/relatable character: Abra Bacon
“Favorite” isn’t a word I like to use, because favorite is superfluous and too easy. Abra Bacon doesn’t appear in the novel until Part Three, and doesn’t really appear as much as other characters do throughout the novel. However, I like how quickly she matured; letting go of childish games, theories and love interests so she could grow and form better relationships. My most relatable Abra quote:
“‘I’ve tried to figure it out. When we were children we lived in a story that we made up. But when I grew up the story wasn’t enough. I had to have something else, because the story wasn’t true any more…Aron didn’t grow up. Maybe he never will. He wanted the story and he wanted it to come out his way…I don’t want to know how it comes out. I only want to be there while it’s going on. And, Cal–we were kind of strangers. We kept it going because we were used to it. But I didn’t believe the story anymore.'” (p.575)
Most consistently inspiring character: Lee
The Trask’s caretaker and a Chinaman who gives a voice to the underlying tones and themes of the novel. I really enjoyed his personality and kind of condescending acceptance when it came to strangers’ or other characters’ views of him: to strangers he did not lose his Chinese accent, and used their expecting-ignorance attitudes to get away with insulting them; with friends and confidants, he spoke in his acquired English accent with full understanding of the events, people and situations surrounding him. Some of my favorite moments:
“Lee’s hand shook as he filled the delicate cups. He drank his down in one gulp. ‘Don’t you see?’ he cried. ‘The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word Timshel–‘Thou mayest’–that gives a choice…that throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’–it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.'” (p.301)
“Lee’s voice said, ‘I know that sometimes a lie is used in kindness. I don’t believe it ever works kindly. The quick pain of truth can pass away, but the slow, eating agony of a lie is never lost. That’s a running sore.'” (p. 427)
The last thing I’d like to say for this post, is thank you John Steinbeck for creating this astounding, flowing, never boring, inspirational – masterpiece? But since I’m no where near finishing my goal, I cannot dawdle on niceties any longer. I hope to get at least an hour of reading in before I fall asleep…
“We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.” (p. 413)