Wednesday, January 11, 2012

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Never before have I come across such a deeply felt work of literature that encourages people to free themselves from the guilt of human frailty and fallibility. We have a choice to conduct our lives in either kindness or cruelty, virtue or vice. How we achieve that balance is up to us. But what's important is that we recognize the struggle in everyone no matter which end of the scale they tend toward. This is an optimistic -although sometimes dark- story of love, family and friends, acceptance and rejection, good and evil and finally forgiveness. The story, the prose, the setting, the characters -especially the characters- all combined to make this one of the best books I've ever read.

And Adam was more afraid of the gentleness than he had been at the violence, for it seemed to him that he was being trained as a sacrifice, almost as though he was being subjected to kindness before death, the way victims intended to the gods were cuddled and flattered so that hey might go happily to the stone and not outrage the gods with unhappiness. pg24

"There's a capacity for appetite," Samuel said, "that a whole heaven and earth of cake can't satisfy." pg158

There are no ugly questions except for those clothed in condescension. pg164

When a man says he does not want to speak of something he usually means he can think of nothing else. pg262

"Two stories have haunted us and followed us from out beginning," Samuel said. "We carry them along with us like invisible tails - the story of original sin and the story of Cain and Abel. And I don't understand  either of them. I don't understand them at all but I feel them." pg266

No story has power, nor will it last, unless we feel in ourselves that it is true of us. What a great burden of guilt men have! pg268

We gather our arms full of guilt as though it were precious stuff. It must be that we want it that way. pg268

"Do you take pride in your hurt?" Samuel asked. "Does it make you seem large and tragic?"
"I don't know."
"Well, think about it. Maybe you're playing a part on a great stage with only yourself as audience." pg295

"It's the lie I'm thinking of. It might infect everything. If they ever found out you'd lied to them about this, the true things would suffer. They wouldn't believe anything then." pg355

I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one, that has frightened and inspired us, so that we live in a Pearl White serial of continuing thought and wonder. Humans are caught - in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too - in a net of good and evil. I think it is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any changes we may impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners. There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well - or ill? pg413

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. pg415

Lee dipped into his savings. He had never before spent a needless penny, since all money had been earmarked for his bookstore. But now he bought a little hard bed and a desk. He built bookshelves and unpacked his books, invested in a soft rug and tacked prints on the walls. He placed a deep and comfortable Morris chair under the best reading lamp he could find. And last he bought a typewriter and set about learning to use it. pg431

Perhaps the best conversationalist in the world is the man who helps others to talk. pg434

There's a responsibility in being a person. It's more than just taking up space where air would be. pg455


8 comments:

Anne said...

This is one of my favorite books of all time. I am so glad to see you loved it too, great review!

Laura said...

I love this book so so so much! Glad you liked it too!

Tracy said...

I only read it a few months ago for the first time, Trish. It's a brilliant book - and there are so many wonderful quotes in it.

Kristi said...

It's in my top five. So amazing! I originally read a library copy, but I received my own copy for my birthday. I read it at the end of 2010, and I'm itching to read it again. I'm glad you loved it too!

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

My husband is always nagging me to read Steinbeck already because he loves his books. I think East of Eden appeals to me the most, and your very positive review has made me definitely want to read it.

Kailana said...

I don't read nearly enough Steinbeck... I must remedy that one of these days!

Myke Olsen said...

There's so much wisdom in that book. I've read it twice and I'm looking forward to the day I read it again.

laughingwolf said...

like anyone else, he behaved like an ass at times, but knew how to write!