East of Eden Buchzusammenfassung - das Wichtigste aus East of Eden
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Zusammenfassung von East of Eden

John Steinbeck

The Nobel Prize Winner’s Masterpiece on Family, Loneliness & Love

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21 Min.

    East of Eden
    in 5 Kernaussagen verstehen

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    Kernaussage 1 von 5

    The desire to be loved and the perils of jealousy

    The Trasks live on a modest Connecticut farm during the period of the Civil War. Cyrus Trask is the patriarch of the family and is called to serve in the war. His deeply pious wife, cares for their infant son Adam.

    Injured on his first day of combat, Cyrus returns from the war with a wooden leg and a bout of syphilis contracted from a prostitute. He promptly transmits it to his loving wife. Convinced the disease is punishment for her illicit dreams, she then drowns herself. In need of a new wife and mother to his young son, Cyrus marries his neighbor’s daughter, Alice, who eventually gives birth to Charles.

    As the boys grow up, Cyrus takes great pride in his military service. He revels in embellishing war stories, and, little by little, his tall tales become complete fabrications. No one seems to question the truth of Cyrus’ accounts, and he’s able to parlay his tall tales into a high-ranking job in the War Department.

    One day, Cyrus takes Adam for a walk around the farm and explains to him that he’ll enlist Adam in the army. Adam is reluctant, thinking that Charles is better suited for the role, but Cyrus insists. When Charles discovers this secret conversation, he beats Adam to a pulp in a jealous rage. Despite the beating, Adam is forced into the army, while Charles stays home with Alice to preside over the farm.

    While fighting Native Americans in the West, Adam learns from Charles that Alice has died. Adam tells Charles he’ll return to the farm soon. Instead, after leaving the army, Adam becomes a drifter. He gets arrested for vagrancy and is put on a chain gang. Eventually, he escapes, makes his way home, and is reunited with Charles.

    Charles tells Adam of their father’s death and that he left them an enormous fortune. The two decide to stay on the farm but soon get on each other’s nerves.

    One day, a mysterious badly beaten woman crawls to their doorstep. The brothers take her in. The woman, Cathy Ames, has a checkered past, to say the least.  She burned down her childhood home – with her parents inside – and went to Boston to become the mistress of a brothel keeper. Unaware of this, Adam is kind and nurturing, but Charles is suspicious of Cathy and wants her kicked out when she recovers.

    Instead, Adam marries her. On their wedding night, after Adam mistakenly takes Cathy’s sleeping medication, Cathy decides to sleep with her new brother-in-law, Charles. Adam, still ignorant of his new bride’s sins, decides to take his share of his father’s money and move with her to California.


    One of the central themes of Part One, and throughout East of Eden, is the sibling rivalry between Adam and Charles that parallels the biblical tale of Cain and Abel. In the story, Cain is a farmer, and Abel is a shepherd. God asks each to offer a sacrifice. Cain offers his best crop, while Abel offers his best sheep. For some reason, God favors the gift from Abel. This enrages Cain, who slays his brother in retaliation. In response, God gives Cain a scar and banishes him to the land of Nod, East of Eden.

    The Trask boys mirror this story in multiple ways. As children, Adam and Charles each want their father’s love. For Cyrus’s birthday, Charles saves up his money to buy a pocket knife. Adam, on the other hand, gives his father a stray puppy. Cyrus ignores the knife but loves the puppy. Charles reveals this jealousy was the reason he attacked Adam. He thought his father loved his brother more.

    Like Cain, Charles develops a scar – in this case, after cutting his forehead doing farmwork. And, when Adam moves to California with Cathy, Charles is forced to stay back East on the farm, like Cain in the land of Nod.

    Steinbeck uses this allegory to make a broader point about the fundamental desire all people have to be loved. When a person is deprived of love, it often leads to jealousy and resentment that can turn violent.

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    Worum geht es in East of Eden?

    East of Eden (1952) is a sweeping epic that centers around three generations of the Trask family. Growing up, Adam Trask competed with his brother for his father’s love – with jealousy and vengeance leading to violent consequences. When Adam has children of his own, he struggles to spare them the same fate.

    Wer East of Eden lesen sollte

    • Fans of the great American novel
    • Lovers of classic Westerns
    • Anyone who enjoys epics or family dramas

    Über den Autor

    John Steinbeck is widely considered one of the most influential novelists in American history. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. His other books include The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and Tortilla Flat.

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