Steinbeck John

East of Eden

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Santrauka: The story is primarily set in the Salinas Valley, California, between the beginning of the 20th century and the end of the Great War (World War I), though some chapters are in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and the story goes as far back as the American Civil War. In the beginning of East of Eden, before introducing his characters, John Steinbeck carefully establishes the setting with a description of the Salinas Valley in Central California. Then he outlines the story of the warmhearted inventor and farmer Samuel Hamilton and his wife Liza, immigrants from Ireland. He describes how they raise their nine children on a rough, infertile piece of land. As the Hamilton children begin to grow up and leave the nest, a wealthy stranger, Adam Trask, purchases the best ranch in the Valley. Adam Trask's life is seen in a long, intricate flashback. We see his tumultuous childhood on a farm in Connecticut and the brutal treatment he endured from his younger but stronger half-brother, Charles. As a young man, Adam spent his time first in the military and then wandering the country. He was caught for vagrancy, escaped from a chain gang and burgled a store for clothing to use as a disguise. Later he wired Charles for 100 dollars to pay for the clothes he stole. After Adam finally made his way home to their farm, Charles revealed that their father had died and left them an inheritance of $50,000 each. Charles is torn with fear that his father did not come by the money honestly. In a parallel story, a girl named Cathy Ames has been growing up in a town not far from the brothers' family farm. Cathy is described as "a monster" without any conscience. From a young age she uses her sexuality to manipulate and control men. While working as a prostitute she is viciously beaten by her pimp and is left close to death on the brothers' doorstep. Although Charles is repelled by her, Adam, unaware of her past, falls in love with and marries her. Adam Trask — newly wed and newly rich — now arrives in California and settles with the pregnant Cathy in the Salinas Valley, near the Hamilton family ranch. Cathy does not want to be a mother or to stay in California, but Adam is so ecstatically happy with his new life that he does not realize there is any problem. Shortly after Cathy gives birth to twin boys, she shoots Adam in the shoulder and flees. Adam recovers, but remains in a deep and terrible depression. He is roused out of it enough to name and raise his sons with the help of his Cantonese cook, Lee, and his neighbor Samuel Hamilton. The character of Lee is very well developed. Although he pretends to be a wealthy California family's stereotypical Chinese servant, he is actually a very well educated man. He becomes much more than a servant to Adam Trask, instead becoming a good friend and adopted family member. Lee, Adam, and Samuel Hamilton have long philosophical talks and one of them in particular is of great importance to them: a discussion of the story of Cain and Abel, which Lee maintains has been incorrectly translated in English-language Bibles. Lee tells about how his relatives in San Francisco, a group of Chinese scholars, spent two years studying Hebrew so they might discover what the moral of the Cain and Abel story actually was. Their discovery that the Hebrew word "Timshel" means "thou mayest" becomes an important symbol in the novel, meaning that mankind is neither compelled to pursue sainthood or doomed to sin, but rather has the power to choose. Meanwhile, Cathy has become a prostitute at the friendliest and most respectable brothel in the city of Salinas. She renames herself "Kate" and embarks on a devious—and successful—plan to ingratiate herself with the owner, murder her and inherit the business. Kate makes her new brothel infamous as a den of sadistic domination. She is not concerned that Adam Trask might ever look for her, and she has no feelings whatsoever about the children she abandoned. Adam's sons, named Caleb (Cal) and Aaron (Aron) — echoing Cain and Abel in the Bible — grow up oblivious of their mother's situation. At a very early age, Aron meets a popular girl named Abra from a well-to-do family, and the two fall in love. Although there are rumors around town that Caleb and Aron's mother is not dead but is actually still in Salinas, the boys do not yet know that she is Kate. The popular and beloved Samuel Hamilton finally passes away and is mourned by all. Adam becomes inspired by the memory of Samuel Hamilton's inventiveness and loses almost all of the family fortune in an ill-fated business venture. The boys, particularly Aron, are horrified that their father is now a town laughingstock. As the boys reach the end of their school days, Caleb decides to pursue a career in farming and Aron goes to college to become an Episcopalian priest. Unfortunately, Caleb has also become a bit of a recluse and in his nighttime wanderings around town, he has discovered who his mother is. Caleb decides to "buy his father's love" by going into business with one of Samuel Hamilton's children, Will Hamilton, who is now a successful automobile dealer. Caleb's plan is to make his father's money back, capitalizing on World War I by selling beans grown in the Salinas Valley to nations in Europe for a considerable premium. He succeeds beyond his wildest expectations and wraps up a gift of $15,000 in cash which he plans to give Adam Trask at Thanksgiving. Aron returns from Stanford for the holiday. There is tension in the air, because Aron has not yet told their father that he intends to drop out of college. Rather than let Aron steal the moment, Caleb gives Adam the money at dinner, expecting his father to be proud of him. But Adam refuses to accept it. Instead, he tells Caleb to give it back to the poor farmers he exploited. Adam explains by saying, I would have been so happy if you could have given me — well, what your brother has — pride in the thing he's doing, gladness in his progress. Money, even clean money, doesn't stack up with that. In a fit of jealousy, Caleb takes his brother Aron to see their mother, knowing it will be a shock to him. Aron, his idealistic world view shattered, enlists in the army to fight in World War I. He is killed in battle in the last year of the war, and Adam suffers a stroke upon hearing the news from Lee. Caleb, who later befriends Abra after Aron leaves for war, tells her why Aron left and tries to convince her to run away with him. She instead persuades him to return home.




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