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Thursday, October 7, 2010

East of Eden IX: The Return Home

"A time splashed with interest, wounded with tragedy, crevassed with joy--that's the time that seems long in the memory.  And this is right when you think about it.  Eventlessness has no posts to drape duration on.  From nothing to nothing is no time at all."

Forget about context, this is one of the most applicable quotations I've ever come across--or, it happens to be so applicable to my life right now that I've forgotten anything else.

But back to context now (and I apologize if any of this crosses back into chapter 6; these two chapters really seem to run together in my mind): Regarding Adam's life over this period of some thirteen years, there are indeed periodic posts upon which to "drape duration," and thereby anchor memory, but they come in clusters, which groups are far spread.  Charles' life on the hand, seems to be nearly devoid of posts at all, though perhaps there are some periodic sticks stuck in the ground.  There is one clear post for him, however, though, were he  to use the metaphor, he would likely not recognize it as such, at least not yet: that is, of course, the scar on his face.

(As a cross-textual connection, the date mentioned in the first paragraph of chapter 7 refers to the same events upon which are based Sinclair's The Jungle.  It's always interesting for me to see how time lines overlap.)


Reading Questions
Chapter 7

  1. One could argue that California, from the gold rush on, and particularly through the period of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression (see The Grapes of Wrath (which, yes, is as good as its Pulitzer should indicate)), was a sort of concentration point for the variety of the United States' status as Melting Pot.  As California is to the United States, so Adam is to California.  How so?
  2. While I think I can wangle an answer for this one, I'd really like some other opinions: Why in the world did Adam "escape" the chain gang, only three days shy of completing his second sentence?
  3. (More perfectly articulated, uncommon-yet-simple wisdom:) "When two events have something in common, in their natures or in time or place, we leap happily to the conclusion that they are similar and from this tendency we create magics and store them for retelling."  Those who are reading, discuss this in context; those who just don't have time, how has this ever applied to you or someone in your life?
  4. Psychoanalysis: Charles sends a telegram with a money wire, and he's asked to supply a security question.  What's wrong with this guy?  Why does he use the question of the birthday present pup?  What does this indicate about himself?
  5. Based on previous questions, why isn't Adam afraid of Charles?  Is he simply complacent about the danger, or is it more/something else?
  6. "...almost as if he'd been dead and resurrected."  Just as Charles doesn't flee after the attempted murder, so Adam doesn't actually die.  Here is clear indication that Adam underwent a metaphoric death; is there a parallel for Charles?  Did he undergo a metaphoric flight?
  7. "It was not a pretty farm near the house--never had been.  There was litter about it, an unkemptness, a rundownness, a lack of plan; no flowers, and bits of paper and scraps of wood scattered about on the ground.  The house was not pretty either.  It was a well-built shanty for shelter and cooking.  It was a grim farm and a grim house, unloved and unloving.  It was no home, no place to long for or to come back to.  Suddenly Adam thought of his stepmother--as unloved as the farm, adequate, clean in her way, but no more wife than the farm was a home."
  8. Considering the previous quotation, has the farm changed, apart from level of cleanliness, in the years since the departures, or is Adam just old enough and detached enough to "see" it now?  (If the latter, then what a sad way to grow up!)
  9. Is there a curse (though I hate to use the word, especially considering the general source of story inspiration--and I really don't want to elicit the idea of "karma") to holding onto and building a legacy from dirty money?  Adam and Charles are not dishonest (regardless of their other faults), but if their father was not an honest man, are they damning themselves (though not necessarily to Hell) for keeping/using it?
  10. "Papers are no match at all for my faith in my father."  Look who's talking!  Shouldn't it be Charles on this side of the argument?  Why isn't it?


  1. Hmm... #3 looks interesting, do you think you could explain a little bit more what you mean? I read this chapter a couple days ago, and it's a bit foggy in my mind right now.

  2. Sorry it's taken me so long to get to this. I'd forgotten!

    Here's the whole paragraph: "When two events have something in common, in their natures or in time or place [which also happens to be the most likely source of commonality--time and place], we leap happily to the conclusion that they are similar and from this tendency we create magics and store them for retelling. Charles had never before had a letter delivered at the farm in his life. Some weeks later a boy ran out to the farm with a telegram. Charles always connected the letter and the telegram [from Adam, requestin $100] the way we group two deaths and anticipate a third."

    I think of this along the same lines of what happens to me when I read a stack of books in relatively quick succession: the books all interelate in ways certainly not intended by the author, and forever I think of that particular stack of books as a group, each as a part of the whole. That was partially which lead me to write that letter to Umbert Eco (for which I'm yet to receive a reply--go figure).


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