East Of Eden

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade October 2001

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Throughout history we have classified people into two categories, good an evil, but it is all too obvious that this method of classification is flawed, for there are recesses of the human spirit that no empirical method could quantify and no mind could comprehend. In East of Eden, John Steinbeck uses an allegory of the story of Cain and Abel to analyze the influences of good and evil upon humanity and their eternal battle for dominance.

The characters of the story are designed and set up in a very interesting fashion. They are evenly split between good and evil with the power of both sides exact balanced. Charles and Adam are nearly exact opposites, with Charles being the evil one and Adam being the good one, but both are naïve and impulsive. While both are pure of force, neither of them has the ability to change for they view the world in a very simplistic manner, either good or evil.

Cathy and Lee are also exact opposites, with Cathy being evil and Lee being good, but they are able to see the world for what it truly is and they see themselves for what they are, thus possessing the ability to change. While all the characters of the novel are archetypes of either good or evil, the addition of Caleb tips the balance of power between the two forces, for he is the culmination of both good and evil and the focal point of the story. Caleb is analogous of Cain and a direct interpretation of the Bible shows that he is a force of evil, but Steinbeck further examines the Bible and comes to conclude that Cain was a man, a creature with the ability to choose, an individual controlled by no one but himself and that is why both good and evil strive for control of him.

Caleb endures many trials and tribulations as he is exposed to varying degrees of both good and evil. Although Caleb has always been weighed down upon by his mother's evil, he is never harmed by it, and ironically, he is later strengthened by his confrontation with Cathy in which Cathy attempts to manipulate him and control him, it is then that he realizes that he had nothing in common with Cathy and that the righteousness within him is far more powerful than he had predicted. But what is even more ironic was that the greatest harm inflicted upon Caleb was by the one he had loved and adored the most, his own father, Adam. When Adam rejected the birthday present that Caleb gave him and asked Caleb to give it back to the people he "stole"� it from, Caleb's evil side took over, and he was overwhelmed by envy and hatred. Something that he had worked so hard on and for so long was disregarded and scrapped by merely a few words. This shows that they are all humans, humans have flaws, humans are spontaneous, and humans are fallible and that nothing could stop mistakes from occurring, whether you are good or evil. Caleb's actions after the incident was totally based on impulse, his attempt to destroy Aaron was very similar to Charles' attempt to kill Adam. However, Adam's response to Caleb's present is a natural human reaction and Caleb in turn responded in kind by harming Aaron, and by hurting Aaron he would also be hurting Adam, even though he took action against Aaron he truly wanted to harm Adam for his ungratefulness towards him. While when Charles attempted to murder Adam, he did not want to do what had done, he was only trying to claim what he believed was rightfully his through the only method he knew of. Caleb was different, he was far more sadistic, he took pleasure in his revenge, his scheme was much more devious and cunning than that of Charles and even laughed with Cathy when he showed Aaron that their mother was evil.

It has been said that regret is always too late and by the time Caleb realized what he had done, it was already too late, after the anger and hatred dissipated, reason and principles took over, but an everlasting cloud of darkness and remorse hung over him even though he knew that there was nothing that he could do to heal the would. It seemed that evil had won and it was in that dark moment, a time of hopelessness and despair that a light cut through the chaos and discord and saved Caleb from his own discontent. It was the combined forces of good that saved Caleb and liberated him from evil, lee's reason and comfort, Abra's love and kindness, and most important of all, Adam's forgiveness. Adam's forgiveness was the most powerful and profound act in the entire book, for it has been said that he who forgives shares the burden of the forgiven, it took tremendous will power merely for Adam to even move, it must have taken all the power of his entire being to whisper the one word that redeemed Caleb and saved him from his own destruction.

The battle may have been won by good, but the cost of victory was immense. As General Molotov once said "The magnitude of defeat far outweighs the casualties of war"�. The balance of power my have been tipped to the side of good with the redemption of Caleb, but ht war is not over, as long as there humans upon this earth, the battle between good an devil will continue, just as the fight had scarred the Track dynasty, the impact of the war will forever change humanity.