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Monday, November 8, 2010

East of Eden XXVIII -- chpt27: ABRACADABRA!

This is a long chapter, though not one of the mightier, at least not as far as metaphors and philosophy are mighty.  This chapter does, however, introduce--and indeed it is like magic for the two boys--a new primary character, Abra Bacon (mmm, bacon!), and not much of tremendous substance (at least not NEW substance) comes around until she does.  So I will greatly gloss over 27.1 with little more notes than these:  Rabbit Hunting, interesting and telling of characters, and are these characters significantly different from their parallels in earlier generations (but notice the interesting physical features each boy possesses and consider to whom they match--Adam, Cathy, Charles?)?; The Strength of Truth When It's Thought to be a Lie (which, of course, empowers the liar (and yes, telling the truth and intending it to be misconstrued is the EXACT SAME THING as a lie) to do both with equal advantage, in Cal's announcement about his knowledge of their mother, as well as the rest of Cal's bravado.

Now, on!

Chapter 27.2, 3

  1. The judgments of the ignorant, and the vanity of the wealthy!  How do the Bacons (including Abra, coming later)  judge Adam, Lee, and the boys?  Obvious question, but there is significance here when we add, How do these judgments affect the judged?  And everyone's been judged like this before.  How hard--if even possible at all (which I honestly doubt) --is it to be unaffected by these judgments?
  2. While in future books I will discuss at length the near impossibility to truly understand "where people are really coming from" when they are part of a culture entirely different from ours, we will also touch on it here.  Even cultures that appear superficially to be like ours are significantly different under examination.  My first thought along these lines is that of Lewis Carroll's "nudie" photography of Alice Liddell and other girls, despite parental permission and supervision.  This is a thing almost impossible for our culture to accept!  I ascribe this same difficulty, though with less severity, to Mr. Bacon's naming of his daughter.  This poor girl (though she likely doesn't see herself "poor" at all--DIFFERENT CULTURE!) will live her life with the reminder written into the very fabric of her name that she was the parents' (and by "parents" I mean the father, who speaks for both by fiat, so "parentS"--DIFFERENT CULTURE!) second choice after a son.
  3. Regarding judgment: "It was not laziness if he was a rich man.  Only the poor were lazy.  Just as only the poor were ignorant."  It would be easy to label me as paranoid, but I can't believe how true this is!  I noticed it as far back as college when I would be literally shunned--even turned down for a date (though there were often other contributing factors as well!) --specifically (and I even asked a couple times) for wanting to be a teacher.  "Teachers don't make any money!  And those who can't do teach!"  Hmm.  And now that I'm "unemployed," I get all kinds of sideways looks and pointed fingers and behind-the-hand whisperings.  Was I guilty of the same when I was employed?  I have selective memory and don't recall.  The thought terrifies me!  What experience have you had with this sort of judgment?
  4. Regardless of judgments, Adam is a bit of an alien.  How?

 Chapter 27.3

  1. "...the inexorable logic of women..."  ! and .
  2. Interesting that in these first pages of the chapter, Aron and Cal are equal in/under/because of the presence of the girl.  --At least until the rabbit comes up again.
  3. And Cal, at the moment Abra begins to love Aron, has one more motive to hate him than ever, but what are his real feelings?
  4. Why would Abra perhaps love the boys more--at least temporarily--if indeed there were a wicked stepmother and faggots to collect or if she could be their foster mother?
  5. Why does Cal lie about Lee, taking advantage of Abra's existing judgment (symptom of her fear) of "the Chinaman?"
  6. Is Cal as evil as his mother?


  1. I am just going to throw this out there, but I wonder if there isn't more to the rabbit scene than maybe you think. It seems to me that the rabbit may well be a stand-in for Aron, and the shocking revelation that is going to come when he realizes that his mother is not an angel, but rather a prostitute. Notice how innocent and unsuspecting the rabbit is? Then, suddenly, "WHAM!" like Cal's off-hand remark about their mother later in the story, it pierces him dead. I don't know. Perhaps I'm guilty of reading too much into this, but I just think there has to be significance to why it is rabbit hunting that Steinbeck chooses to show us the characters. It could have been anything.

    27.2.3. I agree with this stereotype, and I think a big part of this is actually the American dream. We're so certain that everyone can become rich by hard work. Well, the flip side of that is that if someone is poor, they must not be working hard. I've never bought that to be true, but I think that most Americans do think that.
    27.3.4. She loves them more because her entire relationship with them is "maternalistic," in the sense that she loves them as long as she pities them and can control them. When Cal reveals himself stronger than her, she no longer loves him nearly as much--although admittedly she never loved him as much as Aron. Notice the part where she tells the difference, though? It's when Cal tries to force this gift upon her, while Aron pleads that she will accept it. The supplication puts her in power and makes her love Aron more.
    27.3.6. Cal CAN BE as evil as his mother. Unlike Cathy, Cal is a morally complex character. He has good traits, and he has wicked traits. His mother is worse because she only has wicked traits. Now, I think Cal's traits can be as bad as Cathy's, but the good side, the side that genuinely loves Aron, is the difference.

  2. I didn't see it, James. I don't think you're over-reading at all. Moments like these I often overlook as potential metaphor, because they remind me of my first positive experience with Steinbeck--reading about the turtle at the beginning of Grapes of Wrath. Moments like these I enjoy for the beauty and temporarily forget the dig.

  3. Yeah, I do the same thing. On the first pass, I just enjoyed it because the scene is hilariously written (well, at least in a sadistic sort of sense). It's amazing what you catch the second pass through a book once you can concern yourself with things other than the plot--at least assuming I'm not over-reading this, which, again, I'm not sure.


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