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Friday, October 15, 2010

East of Eden XII -- The Trasks: Family Drama

Back to the Trasks.  In chapter 10 we get a glimpse of daily life now that they've settled into it since the wrapping up of the Cyrus-is-dead details, and we see the funny side of family dramatics: two entirely and otherwise non-dramatic people acting like bickering school girls (no offense to all you school girls out there) when they're alone.  I mean, come on, they have a little spat at breakfast over crumbs in the butter and Charles says, "You better get off the place."  So what does Adam do?  He leaves.  For EIGHT MONTHS!  Ugh, drama!  And it's not just these two brothers.  This behavior is real and everywhere.  Raise your hand if you act like this with your family or significant other, regardless of how you are with other people.  And I'm raising my hand: I would probably totally make fun of myself if I saw through another's eyes some of the ridiculous dramatics my wife and I engage in and over the stupidest things.  WHY DO WE DO THIS?  To the Trasks' credit, they survive two years (after passing of the eight months) before their next fight, but that's not the last one either.  Notice (and it's the final question anyway) what it takes to finally bring down the flames.

Reading Questions
Chapter 10.1

  1. "Two men alone are constantly on the verge of fighting, and they know it."
  2. "You don't have to get up.  But if you're going to farm, you'd better farm."  (I love the exchanged between Adam and Charles.)
  3. "I bet you get up because you want to, and then you take credit or it--like taking credit for six fingers."  You all know someone like this.

Chapter 10.2

  1. Adam: "Every morning in the army that damned bugle would sound.  And I swore to God if I ever got out I would sleep till noon every day.  And here I get up a half-hour before reveille.  Will you tell me, Charles, what in hell we're working for?"  And Charles says: " You can't lay in bed and run a farm."  These are the words Charles says, but they're not really a viable answer.  What are they working for?

Chapter 10.3

  1. Summary of the brothers' existence, from Charles: "I can just see it all over again.  You'll stay around a year or so and then you'll get restless and you'll make me restless.  We'll get mad at each other and then we'll get polite to each other--and that's worse.  Then we'll blow up and you'll go away again, and then you'll come back and we'll do it all over again."
  2. "There were no borders to time so that it seemed endless passing."
  3. Why doesn't Charles want Adam to build a new house?  He keeps saying, "I'll buy you out."  What's his problem?
  4. Why is Charles so happy to hear that Adam was a "jailbird?"  And what about this revelation leads to the evident peace at the end of the chapter?


  1. I think the answer to most of these questions, including why he wants to work hard on the farm, why he wants to buy Adam out, and why he is so happy that Adam was in jail, is simply that Charles sees life as another contest in which he must beat Adam. Adam beat Charles in the only thing that mattered to him: earning the affection of his father, and therefore, Charles wants to be superior in everything else. Remember that one of the times that Charles beat Adam up was when Adam somehow beat him at a game. All of these are essentially adult games. Work harder and be more successful. Buying someone out exerts financial dominance. Seeing Adam in jail means he's not so great after all. All of this is what one might describe using the cliche of "inferiority complex."

  2. You know, I don't see it this way (and I'm not saying you're wrong, please understand). I see Charles more as a formerly wild horse now broken. I think that Charles has grown to delude himself with his father's impression of Adam. Adam has had grand opportunities in Charles's eyes, because that's the spin his father put on what Adam was off to do. Charles hasn't been out in the world, in a war, doing what his father idealizes.... I think that he's fallen into the habit of his father's eyes. When he sees that Adam is as human as he is, well, it's comforting. Adam is more real, less of a fraternal threat. Until this moment, Adam has held absolute power over Charles--well, not power so much as status, because of Charles's reverie for his father. Now, as far as the games and dominance is concerned, I think it's possible, but at best subconscious.

  3. That's interesting. I don't think the two opinions are really contradictory. I agree with just about everything you are saying. The people you want to beat in these competitions are always the people you admire most. It's like how you let a 3-year-old beat you at the game because there is no honor in victory, but if you are playing someone who is proficient at something, you are pulling out all the stops in order to win. To Charles, Adam is everything that he wanted to be, so he has to beat him at things in order to make himself feel better.

    Also, I think you could argue, based upon your interpretation, that Adam is another one of those gods that Steinbeck describes earlier. But instead of being a good god, he is somewhat of an unmerciful and hated god who Charles needs to kill in order to love his brother as a friend. The part about Adam being in jail finally does it.

  4. I see how you're combining the ideas. I like that. Also, I was thinking about that very notion of Adam being a god. Well said.


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