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Friday, October 22, 2010

Soliciting Your Votes

Hey, Everyone. 
Take a second and
VOTE for your favorite
East of Eden characters.
(The poll is there on the right, up at the top;
vote for as many characters as you want.)

You haven't met all of the characters over there yet.  The poll's open until the middle of November, so feel free to revise your vote as you keep working through the book.  I don't think we'll actually get to Abra before the poll closes.  If you know her from a previous reading and like enough, great; if not, no worries.)


  1. Oh come on, it's Cathy. Poll over. I've read that she's one of the most criticized characters because the way that Steinbeck says she's just evil is very simple, and I can't disagree. Still, almost all books need a great villain, and Cathy is very engaging.

  2. I think he shows it pretty well--more than just telling.

  3. Agreed. But a lot of people find the lack of underlying motivation a deal-breaker.

  4. I udnerstand the criticism, but I think it's lame. Her evil is explicit and realistic. For me, the fact that she has no rationale behind it makes her all the more unpredictable and dangerous.

  5. I agree with you. The thing to keep in mind is that this is not just a sloppily drawn character. He understands that this may be a criticism leveled at him, and he addresses it by saying that it's actually intentional.

    One of my few criticisms of Harry Potter is the moral dichotomy between the characters. It seems like you would have to work really hard to find some nice things to say about most Slytherins, and Rowling never addresses this, except to say exactly what most of the people who might criticize that would say, which is Dumbledore's line about how the world isn't divided between good people and Death Eaters. Steinbeck seems to be saying that there ARE people who are irredeemably evil and beyond rational motivation. I think the fact that he addresses the issue makes a difference in how we approach the characters.

  6. Let me see if I understand you Potter position: either you want there to be characters who are irredeemably evil in Potter, or you want proof that there are Death Eaters or Slytherins who aren't so bad? I think you're getting at the latter, and I agree. Why can't there be a couple of Slytherin kids who are just simply good? Maybe it's like swearing in the halls--you only hear the kids that do it and do it a lot and you beging to think that everyone swears in the halls. I have a bit of a problem with that in the books as well--Slytherins are self-interested, not evil, by nature. I guess we do see glimpses: Malfoy has repeated second thoughts, and Regulus Black turned--a Death Eater no less--turned against Voldy.

  7. Right, the second part is what I'm getting at. What I am saying is that Cathy is much like some of these Slytherins that I would not call very well developed characters, but the difference is that Steinbeck explains his world-view (monster), that allows him to do this, while Rowling's expressed world-view suggests that people should not be completely good or completely evil. Yes, Malfoy has second thoughts, but it happens in only very small parts of book 6 and book 7 after being a central character for much of the series. Then, you have people like Crabbe and Goyle, who are not humans, as far as I can tell. I know that when you have a series with about 300 characters, it can get hard, but sometimes these 2D characters frustrate me a little bit.

    Let's look at the best character in the series to support my argument. I think that the best character is Severus Snape. You're free to disagree with me, but I don't know that you'll be able to convince me. Anyway, we can agree that he is exceedingly well drawn-up. What makes him so interesting? He appears to be a bad guy, and really isn't that great of a person; a lot of why he helps is personal rivalry, which is the same negative trait that leads him to hate Harry. But there is motivation, and what's more, there's a soul! We can see why Snape was like this. He was hated as a little kid, and I'm sure we've all seen kids who children pick on the same way. With some of these other characters, it's like the vast majority of Slytherins are born soulless and evil, and she never attempts to explain it really.

  8. HOW COULD I FORGET ABOUT SNAPE!? Agh! And YES, he is unquestionably my FAVORITE character in the books, and was since, like, book 3. Always mysterious, always malignant, always somehow conflicted. What's best, I think, is that when we discover his motivations for good, it doesn't compromise his Slytherin-ness. He still hates Harry. He still loves Harry's mom. He's still a hero. He's still HIM.

    I agree, 2D characters get old really fast, and when they're not archetyped, it's hard to believe they're "real." The problem is that even with such entire lack of restraint that Rowling had at her hands, she just didn't have space to draw them so fully. But maybe she did. I've never been convinced she's a great writer. She's an excellent storyteller, and she stumbled upon (stumbled is not a nice word, sorry) something genius and perfectly suited to pop-appetites, but a great writer she is not. There are many writers (and how I wish I were one) who can present a character in mere sentences and have them fully fleshed. Chabon, I've always thought, is one. Salinger another.

  9. I could not agree with your conclusions on Rowling more. She's kind of a step between Dan Brown and really good writers. Her imagination is vast, and I could never come up with something as complicated as the world of Harry Potter, but she doesn't draw up some of the characters particularly well, and every once in a while, there is a passage of writing that makes me go, "facepalm." Also, if you think about it, there are very few memorable conversations. Compare something, such as Lord of the Rings or East of Eden or maybe the best of all, the Bible. There are so many lines that mean something and go beyond the immediate context of the situation. Harry Potter doesn't have many of those. There are situations that she tries, usually through Dumbledore, but they usually wind up at, "good," and not some sort of literary gem of wisdom for all time.

  10. The absolute face-palm writing I've come across yet (though, admittedly I read all four books--story's not bad, though) is the Twilight books. Ugh!


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