East of Eden – post XI

A large number of people rate Steinbeck very highly and you think you know why after reading Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath but there is an attention to human emotions in East of Eden that surpasses those and reminds me a bit of the lump-in-throat inducing end of To Kill a Mockingbird, which is also a study in the relationships between children and fathers and friends.

Bullet points between 676 – 728

* Adam has a minor stroke after receiving Aron’s telegram telling him that he has enlisted and he is not to worry and for a while is very ill being nursed by Lee who becomes a minor expert on cerebral haemorrhages

* Cal blames himself for his brother’s decision but is tamed from becoming truly evil by Abra who reveals that her father is going to jail for corporate fraud and that she is far from perfect and is in love with Cal

* Then the inevitable happens and the telegram comes informing them of Aron’s death and it forces Adam to have a full-blown stroke and in his grief Cal admits he took Aron to meet Kate and that led to him joining the army

* In a very moving scene Lee gets Cal and Abra to come to Adam’s bedside and Lee begs for Adam to forgive his son and bless him and he does uttering the word “Timshel” Hebrew for thou mayest an echo throughout the second half of the book meaning that he forgives him not because he has to but because he can

I’m not ashamed to say that I had tears in my eyes at the ending and put the book down and saw Steinbeck in a different light. Wrongly I thought he specialised in writing about people down on their luck but here was a story all about love, in all its forms, and the writing was weighted just right and the attention to the human condition in places amazing. Review in the next couple of days…

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