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Thursday, October 14, 2010

East of Eden XI -- From the Bottom Up

Reading Questions
Chapter 9.1

Maybe this is a slightly bizarre comparison, but as I finished reading the third paragraph of the chapter, where Mr. Edwards dies of asphyxiation by chicken bone, I couldn't help but think of Tennessee Williams, whom, as a writer at least, I respect hugely; as a person, well....  If you don't already know the connection I'm referring to, here is the applicable excerpt from Williams' entry at wikipedia:

File:Tennessee Williams NYWTS.jpg
Tennessee Williams
Williams died on February 25, 1983 at the age of 71.

Reports at the time indicated he choked on an eyedrop bottle cap in his room at the Hotel Elysee in New York. The reports said he would routinely place the cap in his mouth, lean back, and place his eyedrops in each eye.[6] The police report, however, suggested his use of drugs and alcohol contributed to his death. Prescription drugs, including barbiturates, were found in the room, and Williams' gag response may have been diminished by the effects of drugs and alcohol.

Williams' body was found by director John Uecker who was identified as his secretary and who travelled with Williams, and was staying in a separate room in Williams' suite.

(Back to the chapter)
  1. "This ending was no deterrent.  No one who is young is ever going to be old."
  2. Is there anything we can assume about Steinbeck's own morality--or self-perceived morality--from his use of the institution of the whorehouse and the description here at the beginning of chapter 9, as well as the fact that this, essentially, is where Cathy chooses to begin her climb to the top?
  3. Something about the idea of "interviewing" to fill positions at whorehouses seems very strange to me.
  4. Name change: Cathy Ames is now Catherine Amesbury.
  5. Why is prostitution (though she doesn't yet take it up) the perfect profession for Cathy?  Really, it fits her personality and her interests and abilities to a T.
  6. "[He] fell right into the oldest conviction in the world--that the girl you are in love with can't possibly be anything but true and honest."

Chapter 9.2

  1. "As a matter of business he had learned so much about women that he did not trust one for a second.  And since he deeply loved Catherine and love requires trust, he was torn to quivering fragments by his emotion."
  2. Predict: If we've established our Cains and our Abels (and there are yet more to come), what role, then, might Cathy fill, and what evidence supports your prediction?  (Consider her carefully calculated, unaffected use of Mr. Edwards.)
  3. A little past midway through 9.2, Steinbeck writes that Cathy is "afraid, living alone."  Did he, the mighty Steinbeck, mess up?  She doesn't seem--not immediately, anyway--as one who suffers from such a frivolous emotion as fear.  What reasons might she have to be afraid, and are these valid?  Also, considering that fear is an emotion--or sixth sense, if you want--specifically "designed" to keep us safe, why might Cathy actually be much more prone to fear than someone else?
  4. Does dunk work like this, or is Cathy superhuman?  (I'm no particular authority here; someone help us out.)
  5. What does the drunken violence reveal about Cathy's monstrosity?  Is she, and to what extent, in control?  Notice that she knows exactly what she wants and exactly how to get it.  She even knows how to repair damage done.  Via a discussion of her monstrosity, define her humanity--or her "human-ness."

Chapter 9.3

  1. "...in all his life he had never been in love with a woman."  When you think about it, Mr. Edwards and Cathy are quite similar.  How so and to what degree?
  2. "A man who can't learn from experience is a fool, he said."  This is speaking directly of Mr. Edwards, of course, but the same could easily be said of Cathy.  What does she learn--or inevitably will learn--from her experience with Mr. Edwards?
  3. Now at the end of chapter 9, do you feel sorry Cathy?


  1. Hey,

    I am stranded in Michigan w/o my book! I meant to pack it on my trip home for the weekend, but quickly found out that I have no suitcase. That meant, I had to pack all my clothes in my back-pack, and East of Eden's too big. I will see if I can find a copy here. But if I can't, don't be surprised if I don't post for a couple days and then have an absolute avalanche of posts on Wednesday.

  2. No worries. Have a good trip!

  3. Alright, I finally got this one done. I hope to catch up a bit more before the night is over.

    I am going to answer the Abel/Cain question. I think that Cathy is something beyond Cain and Abel. Yes, she has a C for Cathy, but it's really hard to consider her Cain because Cain was motivated by jealousy. Cathy is just pure evil. There's nothing that really motivates her evil so far as we can tell. I think she is more of a satanic figure than someone like Cain. I'm sure that Steinbeck had a reason for assigning her the letter C, but I just can't figure it out, at least right now.

  4. I'm not sure if Steinbeck used the C for Cathy for the same reason he used it for all the boys. I think that as Cathy is not a boy and she is coming from outside the family, she has to be a different parallel. As we get to know her children, her role as the Satanic character becomes clearer. I agree fully that her evil without obvious motivation (and Steinbeck articulates this very point in the beginning of chpt16), but she goes further and further as the book proceeds in using her influence for evil. You'll see.


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