Sunday, September 14, 2014
East of Eden, by John Steinbeck - book review
Brothers mostly fight out competition for their parents' love. They're forbidden from harming one another, but sometimes it's really, really hard to respect that rule, especially when the sibling is acting all pure and disinterested and you know, you just know, that's it's all an act and they're doing it just to barb you.
This is a retelling of the biblical story of Cain and Abel. It draws its strength by making the father an actual father, replacing the mother figure by a wise, bookish Chinese man, and making the original mother a psychopath and sexual manipulator. It takes a monster to reveal the characters' penchant for violence. There's a father monster one generation above, intent on sending his sons to war to assuage his ego as a military expert. Since he's the father of the father, one might posit that we're delving into the Greek myth of Chronos who eats his own children. Then there's the other monster, a psychopathic mother who abandons her children. Monsters do their job by reminding us how necessary it is to remain human and allow compassion and openness to guide us.