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Friday, October 29, 2010

East of Eden XXIV -- chpt23: FLIES ON THE BRAIN

Reading Questions
Chapter 23.1

  1. In Samuel's eyes, I believe there's no difference between the condition that brought about Una's death and the condition Adam is currently suffering.  Consider the line: "But Samuel thought and mourned in the thought that the accident was pain and despair" (emphasis added).
  2. The parable of the fly cage:  "He worked all day with a sharp tine pocketknife on a small block of wood, and when we came home from school he had carved a little face.  The eyes and ears and lips were movable, and little perches connected them with the inside of the hollow head.  At the bottom of the neck there was a hole closed by a cork.  And this was very wonderful.  You caught a fly and eased him through the hole and set the cork.  And suddenly the head became alive.  The eyes moved and the lips talked and the ears wiggled as the frantic fly crawled over the little perches.  Even Mary forgave him a little, but she never really trusted him until after she was glad she was a girl, and then it was too late."  What is the face, what/who is the fly, who are the children amazed by it, and who is Tom?
  3. Samuel is conflicted, whether he knows it or not, by the proof of his son, Tom.  If by nurture you can make a pig into a quarter-horse, why can Tom never escape the shadow of his father and experience the sun for himself?
  4. Note for future reference: for Tom, there is no difference between physical death and the breaking of spirit, such as it was for Dessie.

Chapter 23.2

  1. Samuel must not realize his contradiction with Tom, because the understanding of a similar contradiction--his falling under the spell of sadness when he claimed a real man wouldn't submit to such weakness--destroyed him, together with the event that revealed it.


  1. My best guess is that the head is an analogy for Tom's life. I think that he's the trapped fly frantically looking for an escape. The head is his family/society (other than Samuel) that expects so much from him. They enjoy his company (the animation of the head), but he's never really happy. I don't know. What do you think?

  2. I think this works for application to Tom, but I think this "parable" can have a general application to. Thoughts?

  3. I mean, it could definitely apply the same way to any person. I certainly feel like I'm trapped sometimes by the people around me/social expectations. I don't know. I take this as a very negative metaphor. Maybe it doesn't have to be that one. If you have a different idea, I'd be interested to read it. I don't think by any means that I've, "figured this one out."

  4. I don't have a concrete answer or solution. And I think that's what's great about this kind of thing--it can mean different things according to context. When you feel trapped, and you're buzzing about your little cage--corked in--what are the pieces of the face your influencing? For me, sometimes I feel that it's my mind trapped within me, and it's a little out of control. The only control I can exercise over it is locking it up! It doesn't lose its influence over me though.... I don't know if that even makes sense.

  5. I don't know. I think it makes sense. Also speaks to Tom who is definitely facing mental battles at this point in the book.

  6. Continuing from my previous comment, I think about when something difficult is processing over and over again in my mind, or I'm really stressed out, there's that fly stuck in my brain, and I CAN NOT entirely keep it from my face. I don't think that I necessarily where my heart on my sleeve, but sometimes that fly's busy enough that its presence is impossible to hide.

  7. This is true. I do wear my emotions on my sleeve. My mom can always tell when something's wrong right away when I call on the phone, even if I intend to conceal it.


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