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Rejection by the Father in East of Eden
Transcript of Rejection by the Father in East of Eden
"Steinbeck was angry at his father for not shielding him, even a little, from his mother's scrutiny" (Parini n.pag.). "[T]he Hebrew word timshel-'Thou mayest'-that gives a choice....That says the way is open" (303).
Central theme in novel: Despite the mistakes your parents made, you are not doomed to that fate; you have free will.
So, despite the negligence Steinbeck's father displayed his children, Steinbeck chose to be a good father
To do so he wrote East of Eden for his two sons
Purpose of the book: 1.) Explain their family heritage, 2.) Teach them what he could about life, 3.) Explain timshel to his children; despite what their ancestors have done and despite the mistakes that he himself has made as a father, they still have their ability to make their own choices about who they will be in life. Adam realizes that their father sought to control him and use him for his own purposes: "Adam found his father out...Adam knew that...his father's methods had no reference to anything in the world but his father. The techniques and training were not designed for the boys at all but only to make Cyrus a great man. And the same click in the brain told Adam that his father was not a great man..." (20).
Charles realizes that their father lied about his military exploits in order to gain power: "He wasn't at Gettysburg. He wasn't at any...battle in the whole war. He was hit in a skirmish. Everything he told was lies...I think he stole the money" (69). During a conversation, Cyrus admits that he favors Adam: "I love you better. I always have. This may be a bad thing to tell you, but it's true. I love you better."
Cyrus spends countless hours personally educating and preparing Adam for the army, while excluding Charles from these conversations and forbidding Charles to enlist.
Cyrus also invites only Adam to visit him in Washington "So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell...
...When [Cain and Abel] were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him...the Lord put a mark on Cain...then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden" (Gen. 4.15). Adam fails at his refrigeration business venture and loses his fortune Like Cain and Charles try to kill their brother, Cal does so indirectly by exposing Aron to the knowledge of his mother's true identity. The distraught Aron joins the army and is soon killed.
"The Cain and Abel parallel illustrates the repetitive and ill effects of parental rejection, especially by the father figure, in the course of human history. Lee explains, 'The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears...with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime - guilt - and there is the story of mankind'" (Steinbeck Center n.pag.). Throughout his life, Cal feels that his father loves Aron more than he loves Cal
When Cal and Aron are born, Lee asks Adam if he can tell which is which. Adam says, "Of course...That one is Caleb and you are Aaron" (272). Realization of Father's Imperfection Steinbeck's Personal Experience Rejection of Gifts by the father in East of Eden Rejection of Gifts During Steinbeck's childhood, his father failed as manager of a flour mill business, lost his job, and fell into depression. This is said to have affected Steinbeck very much, because he adored his father and saw him as a role model, and to see his father fail frightened him (Parini n. pag.). "John Ernst became depressed and never fully recovered. Olive took control of the family and became very strict and disapproving of John Ernst. This made Steinbeck angry because he couldn't stand to see his role model ridiculed" (Parini n.pag.). John Ernst later opened a feed store in Salinas, which failed because tractors and cars decreased the demand for horses and animals (Parini n.pag.). "In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock...the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard" (Gen. 4.15). Exerpt from one of Steinbeck's letters "I am choosing to write this book to my sons. They are little boys now and they will never know what they came from...unless I tell them...I will tell them...perhaps the greatest story of all - the story of good and evil, of strength and weakness, of love and hate, of beauty and ugliness. I shall try to demonstrate to them how these doubles are inseparable - how neither can exist without the other..."
-John Steinbeck, January 29, 1951 Effects of Father's Rejection in East of Eden Like Cain, Charles becomes angry and attacks his brother, nearly killing him.
Like God, Cyrus goes out to find Charles.
Like Cain, Charles is "marked"; the scar on his forehead When Cal presents Adam with $15,000, Adam rejects the gift and accuses Cal of obtaining the money dishonestly Works Cited "Major Themes." The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies. San Jose State University. Web. 20 May 2013.
Parini, Jay. "The Fiction of Origins." John Steinbeck - The Fiction of Origins. MS Literature. Web. 20 May 2013. For Cyrus's birthday one year, Charles buys him an expensive knife while Adam gets him a cheap puppy. While Cyrus never uses the knife, he keeps the pup until his death, even though the dog is blind and can't walk.