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Monday, November 29, 2010

East of Eden XLVII -- chpt47: WHO IS TO BLAME?

Reading Questions
Chapter 47.1

  1. I've noticed a version of Adam's sternness for "excuse and borderline disability" in myself and my teaching.  Though he is weak, though he hates the war and feels he's condemning the boys he sends off, why won't he accept the excuse (which is the same reason he wouldn't be able to hold back his boys)?

Chapter 47.2

  1. There's an interesting question here, which could be answered pertly, tritely, but whose answer could be much more revelatory: If God puts together two boys in a family--Cain and Abel, Charles and Adam, Cal and Aron--and one of them kills the other, even if perhaps there was reasonable doubt that they'd live well together and build each other up, is God responsible?
  2. "All great and precious things are lonely."  (I don't think I agree--or I do agree, but with exceptions.)

Chapter 47.3

  1. Twice now, unless I'm missing one, Cain has remained in "Eden" and Abel has left the garden for the weedy world beyond--war and college.  What is Steinbeck saying by this, as it is not the only reversal from the Bible story?
  2. Could Aron live on and work the farm?  It isn't a question regarding Cal.  Yes, he could.  But here we see the greatest similarity between Aron and Adam.  What is it?  (And if Aron has such distinct similarities to both his parents, what is there about Cal that is at similar to his father, if it is Adam at all, as we see clearly what his similarities are to Cathy?)


  1. 47.1.1. Maybe it goes back to a lack of understanding of, "timshel." He doesn't really believe that he morally has the right to make a choice in the matter, even though he would rather. Perhaps he almost sees himself merely as a pawn of fate.
    47.2.1. Well, at some level, yes. Merely the fact that there are people on a planet with scarce resources means yes. But having other people also gives us great opportunities, not only through trade, but through love and working together for a common good. And ultimately, God gives us a decent guide on how to live. It's more our failure to apply it that leads to most evil.
    47.2.2. Do you remember the following line in "The Fellowship of the Ring?" (I think it's only in the movie.) Anyway, Galadriel says, "To bear a ring of power is to be alone." I think it's the same concept. Anyway, I actually kind of agree. The only reason we can recognize greatness is because it's different than mediocrity. Often that means the person has to make different choices, and this can excite jealousy or anger in other people. I don't think greatness can come easily. I think there's always a price.
    47.3.1. I think that for Steinbeck, the garden is more of a mental sort of location. Yes, Charles and Cal stay home, but their spiritual journey is, if anything, more trying than Adam's and Aron's, as they have to wrestle with who they are.
    47.3.2. Aron couldn't live on a farm. He is too ambitious/idealistic. The similarity may seem hard to find at first because Adam did work on a farm, but I think it is that both of them wanted to make a name for themselves. Adam abandoned the family holding in Connecitcut, and Aron wants to remove the memory of his father even more by choosing an entirely different profession.

  2. 47.3.2 -- Aron not being able to farm reminds me of those silly parents who try to ban "The Day No Pigs Would Die," because it's too brutal and suggestive. Aron couldn't handle the dirtiness and raw, unfiltered life on a farm.
    47.3.1 -- I agree, but therein lies also the point I'm making regarding reversal. While of course there are transcendent moral implications in both stories (bible, EoE), the prior, simply by means of its brevity, is very physical, and physically there remains the reversal. I guess this permits room in EoE for journeys both physical and figurative.
    47.2.2 -- So often we come down to semantics. What is "greatness," anyway? I can't help of things that a great, if small, that require groups or companionship. Sam would have never achieved greatness without the reliance of Frodo upon him.
    47.2.1 -- If God is responsible for the evil in the world because he permitted it, then so he is responsible for all that is good. The great thing is his permit to us for free-will, which we can use to make ourselves great, others great, and glorify Him.


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