East of Eden

John Steinbeck
Characters

Adam Trask

Characters Adam Trask

The protagonist of the first half of the novel, Adam is a kind but flawed man who makes a number of bad decisions at crucial points of the story. Adam’s biggest flaws are his tendency to be too trusting and his failure to see people for who they really are. It is these characteristics that make him blind to his father’s corruption and to Cathy’s, scheming and manipulation. Adam’s trusting and goodhearted nature sets him up as an Abel figure in the first generation of the Trask family, as he is his father’s favorite and inadvertently incites the jealousy of his brother, Charles. As Adam grows older and has his own sons, his symbolic role changes and he becomes a parallel to the biblical Adam, Cain and Abel’s father. For much of the boys’ childhood, Adam proves a less than ideal father, distant from his sons and unable to see his own favoritism for Aron over Cal—a repetition of his own father’s favoritism, which proves damaging to the family once again. Adam lavishes all of his love and attention on the anemic and aloof Aron while largely writing off the more loving and thoughtful Cal. Ultimately, however, Lee causes Adam to realize Cal’s potential, and Adam redeems Cal by blessing him at the end of the novel.