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Friday, November 19, 2010

East of Eden XXXIX -- chpt39: Caleb Trask, SUPER HERO

Reading Questions
Chapter 39.1
  1. "It is one of the triumphs of the human that he can know a thing and still not believe it."  While this quotation is in reference to the collective consciousness of the community, which individual of the story triumphs in a similar way?
  2. The revelation of Cal's humanity in this and the previous chapter is startling and heart-warming.  Steinbeck appears to be requiring a balance in this character, such that he that is most capable of bad is also the most capable of good, a balance that so many of the other characters lack.  Cathy, for example, is imbalanced in nearly an equal, opposite manner as Adam, as if the two of them make one whole.  Aron is similar, and seems to require a doppelganger, though it seems unlikely to be Cal (true definition of doppelganger, here).  Are there other characters, like Cal, who are their own and complete without the balance of another?
  3. What tremendous reason does Cal have for being glad that he was in jail overnight?
  4. This moment of sharing between Cal and Adam is along the same lines of an earlier discussion regarding the falling of giants.  How does a giant's fall make him more human, approachable, and, in Cal's case for his father, loveable?
  5. Maybe it's not possible to imagine this moment without being a father; if you're not, project yourself into Adam.  Empathize.  When Cal goes into the kitchen to make coffe, what is Adam thinking and, more importantly--infinitely more importantly--what is he feeling?

Chapter 39.2
  1. What about Kate's (Cathy's) hands?
  2. Who is the father of the twins?  The answer, any one of three possible choices, can strengthen, weaken, or disregard (only one) the point of Timshel.  I vouch for strengthen.
  3. Cal, as heroic and brave as his father--while just as cowardly and afraid--says it: "I don't think the light hurts your eyes.  I think you're afraid."
  4. What is her fear, now Cal has seen and known her?


  1. 39.1.1. Adam
    39.1.2. Lee? He has no clear counter-part, as far as I can tell at least.
    39.1.3. He finally gets a real father. He and Aron have been close to orphans for most of their lives.
    39.1.4. The fall of the giant in this case is kind of the way it was for Adam with Cyrus and for Charles with Adam. They want people to whom they can relate, but they don't think they are worthy to earn their approval until they find out that these people aren't perfect.
    39.1.5. "I've failed."
    39.2.1. Cathy's hands are interesting. I think they represent her skills of manipulation, kind of the way that a person finesses things with their fingers in just a certain way to make something happen. I don't know if this makes any sense to you, but this is kind of the feeling I've had about them. By this point, she's old, and she's faced several setbacks. Now, ever her own pubescent son is able to defeat her, which corresponds to the horrible arthritis.
    39.2.2. More than ever I am convinced Cal=Charles and Aron=Adam. The "Timshel" is important because Cal is choosing to love and emulate Adam, even though he should have inherited Charles's traits. Along these lines, did you catch the part where Cathy suggests that Cal will get her arthritis at some point? A perfect example of her belief that you can't escape the evil that's being passed down to you.
    39.2.4. I think she has a couple of fears. For one, she learns that it was not Adam who told him of Cathy's story. What this means is that the word is getting around, which could potentially be a threat. The bigger problem, though, is that she's afraid she really is missing something. Her entire life, her creed has been that, "People are evil, so I might as well be as evil as it takes to get power over them." And now her own son is completely different, as much as she tries to convince him and herself, that he's not. Her entire world paradigm is crashing down like one of the gods from earlier in the novel.

  2. 39.1.1 -- Aron, too. Example: his convincing himself that his father is not a liar.
    39.1.2 -- I agree that it's Lee.
    39.1.5 -- I think the "I failed" is correct by very incomplete--"very" on in that it is a smaller portion of his emotions. He, like Cal, is flooded with love and understanding and relief, that he's never experienced or could have predicted, and none of which he can satisfactorily explain. It's new and exciting, just as it is for Cal.

    All the rest: very well put.

  3. 39.1.1. I thought about Aron. The question is whether he really knows or if he's preventing himself to know, and whether there's a difference there. Hmm... I think you're right because Adam doesn't really "know" either. He just takes pains not to find out like Aron, so I guess I agree.
    39.1.5. Ahhh I think I see what you're saying. And maybe this relates to the ambiguity about whether they're his kids, too. The fact that they experience the same pain and emotions that he does kind of helps make him the father.

  4. About the paternity thing: Two eggs; one fertilized by Adam, the other Charles. Twins, but not twins.

  5. Right. Pretty warped. Oh well. Such is life.

  6. I've read about it actually happening. Very Jerry Springer.


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