Cathy Ames as the Devil in East of Eden
East of Eden was a novel that explored the roots of evil in its most primal form. Through intricate plot lines and complex characters, John Steinbeck weaved a tale of brutality, cruelty, and isolation. One important character that helped to illustrate the presence of evil throughout the book was Cathy Ames, an intelligent woman who ruthlessly used other people to serve her own needs. When reflecting upon East of Eden, a debate that often surfaces is whether Cathy's evil was a result of nature or nurture. Arguments for and against both sides are in the book. At some times, Cathy is portrayed as a wicked fiend who's aggression stems from nowhere but her own empty heart. Other times, Cathy appears weak and afraid of people who aren't the least bit intimidating. Those are the moments in the book where one must question whether Cathy is truly evil, or just an impatient and self-centered individual.
Cathy's upbringing did not seem to be a likely place to foster dissent and animosity in the young girl. Her parents were loving and eager to educate and entertain Cathy. Unfortunately, Cathy was not a standard child. She was quite different from other children. This fact was very obvious to Cathy's parents and the townspeople. Similar to other children, she learned how to use certain facts and pieces of information to her advantage. However, Cathy's vast cleverness set her apart from other children in that she used much more sensitive information dealing with adult issues for her manipulative purposes. Whatever she did as a child was cold and calculated. Cathy's actions as a youngster seem to point to the conclusion that her sinfulness came from nature and not nurture.
A disturbing scene in the book describes how Cathy's parents died in a house fire. It is quite obvious from the text that Cathy was the culprit of the horrible tragedy. Among the other atrocities she committed included mentally torturing her English teacher to the point where he eventually took his own life and...