According to today a father's love is unconditional, a father loves his child because he/she is his child. In East of Eden, Steinbeck chooses to represent a father's love as conditional. A father's love must be competed for and literally won. This type of love is represented by one family in this novel but is made an example of in two generations. The Trask family is this family. Cyrus has his two sons: Charles and Adam, later in the story Adam has two sons: Caleb and Aron whom also represent that a father's love is conditional.
Adam and Charles were the first characters to show that this type of love exists. It seemed that as much as Charles tried to impress his father with material possessions, Adam would exceed him by doing the simplest of things. On Cyrus' birthday Charles thought that he would attempt to "buy "his fathers love but it did not happen the way he wanted it too,
"I took six bits and I bought him a knife made in Germany--three blades and a corkscrew, pearl-handled.
Where's that knife? Do you ever see him use it? Did he give it to you? I never even saw him hone it. Have you got that knife in your pocket? What did he do with it? 'Thanks' he said, like that. And that is the last I heard of a pearl -handled knife that cost six bits."(29)
Charles was trying to buy his father's love where as Adam was not trying to impress his
father at all. Adam only wanted to give his father something he would appreciate,
"What did you do on his birthday? You think I didn't see? Did you spend six bits or even four bits? You brought him a mongrel pup you picked up...