East of Eden

John Steinbeck

Aron Trask

Characters Aron Trask

Aron, as the Abel figure of his generation, is goodhearted and trusting like his father, Adam. Although Aron is likable and kind, his innate moral sensitivity is extreme, and it makes him fragile and easily susceptible to hurt. The sheltered Aron has a great deal of trouble facing the reality of human evil in the world, and Steinbeck builds a great deal of suspense in the second half of East of Eden regarding whether or not Aron will ever meet his mother, Cathy, and whether or not he will survive such an encounter. Gradually, Aron retreats into the shelter of the church, rejecting the love of Abra in favor of religious laws of chastity and devotion. For a time, Aron also uses higher education as an escape, as he flees to Stanford University but then returns home a short time later, miserable. As the second half of the novel progresses, Aron becomes less likable, as we sense that the shelters he seeks are hollow and that his pursuits are driven neither by true religious belief nor a desire for intellectual education. Ultimately, Aron is destroyed by the revelation that Cathy is his mother. He retreats into a final escape—enlistment in the army—and is killed in World War I. Aron’s death is foreshadowed not only by his role as an Abel figure, but also by Samuel Hamilton’s musing that Aron’s namesake, the biblical Aaron, did not make it to the Promised Land of Canaan.