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believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents. Some
you can see, misshapen and horrible, with huge heads or tiny bodies.
. . . And just as there are physical monsters, can there not be
mental or psychic monsters born? The face and body may be perfect,
but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may
not the same process produce a malformed soul?
The narrator uses these words to introduce
Cathy Ames in Chapter 8 of the novel. Throughout
the novel, Cathy displays an evil that is so thorough that it borders
on implausible, and the narrator makes several attempts to explain
and understand Cathy’s existence. He hypothesizes that although
Cathy is physically beautiful, she is a “psychic monster,” a being
with a mental deformity analogous to others’ external, physical
deformities. Later in the novel, the narrator revises his opinion
of Cathy and wonders whether he was right in calling her a monster.
He seems to become somewhat more sympathetic toward Cathy, musing
that “since we cannot know what she wanted, we will never know whether
or not she got it.” Indeed, Cathy’s motivations remain a mystery
throughout East of Eden, as her schemes seem to
have no concrete goal or aim—a problem that critics have singled
out in their writings on Steinbeck’s novel.