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1. Although Steinbeck portrays
Cathy as a near-inhuman creature of seemingly inherent evil, the
idea of timshel implies that she has the power
to choose her own path. Is Cathy born a moral monster, or does she
become one of her own accord? What elements of Cathy’s character
or episodes from the novel lead you to your conclusion?
2. What symbolic values do characters’
names hold in East of Eden? Discuss specifically
the role of biblical names and the importance of the letters A and
3. What role do the Hamiltons
play in the novel, given that the Steinbeck explores most of his
moral concerns through his portrayal of the Trask family? What is
the significance of the fact that the narrator is descended from
4. Is there any difference between
the narrator of East of Eden and Steinbeck himself,
or is the narrative voice essentially Steinbeck’s own? How does
this affect your reading of the novel?
5. There are several secondary
echoes of the Cain and Abel story apart from the obvious parallels
with Charles and Adam, Cal and Aron. What are some of these echoes,
and what is their role in the novel? (Think about, for example,
Dessie Hamilton’s death and Abra’s reaction to her father’s corruption.)
Ace your assignments with our guide to East of Eden!