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Monday, December 6, 2010

East of Eden LV -- chpt55: THE END

I've written about 30 questions for this final entry, but they're all redundant; if you've made it this far, you've answered them all already.  Here are three:

  1. Describe Cal's guilt (a deliberately ambiguous usage), and in the context of his family and family's history.
  2. Discuss the role of the idea of "the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the heads of the children," especially considering the contextual fact of God as a father.
  3. Is Caleb free?


  1. 1. Well, the thing about this is that you could argue Cal's really not quite as guilty as he believes. The idea that Aron could go on his entire life not knowing this, especially if he really did decide to stay in the area and farm, is ludicrous. Cal merely accelerated the process. On the other hand, what is real is that Cal certainly FEELS guilty, not just for bringing about the deaths, but for having a bit of the bad in him. Steinbeck seems to be saying if he just dwells on this, he will never be able to live a full life.
    2. I think this is an important concept. Cal's fears seem to be about this in a genetic sort of way, but the real way that the sins of the father are passed down in this story is by circumstance. Had Adam manned up and told the kids earlier, this entire crisis may have been prevented, but his decision haunted them.
    3. I don't think the book really answers the question. What we know by the end is that Adam gives him the CHANCE to be free, but we don't know if he takes this to heart. We have to hope that he does, but we can't be sure. Just hearing the words does not make him free. After all, Lee has been trying to tell him that he is free for the entire last fourth of the book, and it doesn't work. He has to take it to heart, so Steinbeck kind of leaves us at a bit of a crossroads at the end. In the midst of this devastation, Adam gives Cal the chance to free himself, but we can only guess at what he does as a result.

  2. If you take the characters together from throughout the book, I think they tell that Cal will eventually become free. Samuel didn't gain his elevation until very late in his life, by his own measure. Lee likewise. We see how similar Abra is to Lee, and we see the reliance Cal has on both of them--they will help guide him and, even if by force, help him leverage that tremendous good within him. If the story were to continue throughout his life as well, I imagine Cal would gain his freedom at the very end, much like his father.

    As for Aron, is think this is the final tribute to Genesis: Abel was robbed of his earthly opportunities, so was Aron. Was it Cal who did it? Well, in this book, no. Because no matter what Cal might have done to assist the motivation, Aron made his choice to enlist--even if in the midst of a type of madness--and Cal did not cause the war to be available. I think Cal blaming himself for Aron's death is like a driver blaming himself for a car accident because he chose to drive home a different route than usual putting his car in just the wrong spot at just the wrong time, though perhaps he was speeding a little bit, too.

    I agree very much that Cal's belief in his guilt is the most important factor.


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