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Monday, October 25, 2010

East of Eden XX -- chpt19: Q: What's the Opposite of a Church

A: a brothel, and, according to Steinbeck, they're siblings.

Reading Questions
Chapter 19.1

  1. The first question is pretty obvious, though the author goes to some at least minor length to discuss it: How is this possible? 
  2. This question may be less obvious: Does the life of an individual, though private and supposedly separate, affect his work?  For example, does the mentioned Reverend Billing's private life affect the quality or efficacy or accuracy of his teachings?  A common one in my family growing up regarded music.  Could someone with such rotten morals produce something I should be listening to?  My parents seemed to think that no matter what the song and lyrics, I couldn't listen to anyone who's personal life wasn't beyond reproach.  Take a side.  Which is right?  Consider this quotation: "Billing went to jail [for his various crimes and passions], but no one ever arrested the good things he had released."
  3. On the contrary, what if your business is itself dirty?  Are you yet capable of being, as Faye is described, "highly moral, and easily shocked"?

Chapter 19.2
(Attention: name change #2 for Cathy Ames, now referred to as Kate)

  1. Cathy (I will call her Kate from here on out, or until she changes it again) never works or serves or even, it seems, moves without an agenda.  What is her purpose of taking to Faye's place and behave in such an uncharacteristically kind and serviceable way?  The answer might seem obvious--to take over the house--but it's more than that.  Ownership--material ownership, that is--isn't something Kate is interested in.  There's something deeper going down.
  2. Steinbeck and I have an apparently different definition of "morality," because again, in this section, he says of Faye, "and her natural morality took hold."  Define his usage of the word, at least in this context.

Chapter 19.3

  1. How would things be different, do you think, if there were no kids involved?

Chapter 19.4

  1. "She told the best lie of all--the truth."  Steinbeck's used this more than once, and the are a variety of reasons behind it's truth.  List them.
  2. Oh, sweet Symbolism: The Nutshell.  When I first watched the nutshell incident, I only thought of one degree of symbolism, but there is more.  Consider this line in addition: "Only that big?  It felt like a house."
  3. And Faye is SO moral!  Instead of a slug of whiskey, she downs a shot of V8!


  1. On the question of saying one thing and doing another: It reminds me of how people always mistake the definition of, "hypocrite." A hypocrite is someone who doesn't actually believe what s/he is saying, while most people think of a hypocrite as a person who says one thing, but doesn't follow their own advice. I think there is an important difference. My pastor who has mentored me has told me that, "People will not believe something a pastor says unless he really believes what he's saying." In other words, no hypocrites. I don't think this means that a person who acts against that cannot be effective. For example, as Paul writes in Romans, "We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." He would know, since he killed Christians. Does the fact that he occasionally fails to live by his own creed make his words cheaper? To me, that would only be the case if he didn't really believe them in his heart. I can see other people reacting differently, but that's my take.

    Could you explain the "nutshell?" My problem with books I have read before is that I always see the foreshadowing and miss the metaphor. What I took away was the discovery of the medicinal habits allow Cathy to conceive the idea of poisoning Faye.

  2. Great point, James. But one who indeed believes something, preaches something, yet periodically slips is different from someone who claims to believe something, shows one front to the public, but is someone else entirely in private. Of course, this still falls under the category of hypocrite because an individual like this clearly doesn't believe what he preaches.

    Regarding the nutshell: consider the timing for the nut shell getting stuck (and the shape of a shard of nutshell--think thorn, fang (and from the latter, Cathy's own teeth)). Second, if we're drawing a connection between the nutshell shard and Cathy, think about the last times we connected her with a house.

  3. I have to disagree with your last statement about hypocrites. To reference one of your works, I wouldn't call Eugene Cross a hypocrite if he says that stealing is wrong. He clearly wants to stop, but can't.

  4. Touche'. Good point! I hadn't thought of it from that side.


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