22 February 2010
East of Eden Response
The genesis of Adam Trask's maturity, a maturity that is brought about by his sudden perception of truth, occurs when the sixteen-year-old becomes aware of the inveracity of his father's self portrayal as a Civil War hero and "one of Lincoln's closest, warmest, and most trusted friends." Although this particular epiphany awakens Adam to Cyrus's disappointing web of lies, such a prevailing loss of innocence reveals to him the duality of life and human nature, thus forever changing his perception of choice and truth.
The Hebrew term timshel, often referred to in the later chapters of East of Eden, directly translates to the phrase "thou mayest": thou mayest choose for self whether or not to overcome sin. Having the opportunity to choose his own beliefs and his own truths about humanity are the greatest rewards Adam could receive following his eye-opening experience which reveals to him his father's reality. With such a choice, he is able to recognize the miniscule amount of truth that lies in a world full of deceit. Therefore, he puts up a wall and only trusts Samuel and Lee to help his make his decisions. Once Adam uncovers Cyrus's actuality, he affirms the irrelevancy of outside opinions when he sees Alice, his stepmother, smiling as she cleans. He is flabbergasted. Her smile is equally as shocking to Adam as if he had just seen her naked because Alice does not show much emotion. However, this experience opens his eyes not only to what is standing in front of him, but, on a deeper level, to the duality of life. Dual means two, or, a pair of something. Therefore, duality of life is the principle that there are two sides to everything: people, events, ideas, and beliefs. Nothing in life is the way it appears; people are not always true in the way they portray themselves, and circumstances are not always justified by history. Adam realizes this duality in mankind when he sees Alice smiling because, for the first time in his life, he sees her happiness. Adam is finally able to see her as more than his father's servant; she has feelings and she wants to be happy, as do all human beings. Alice has never seemed unhappy to him before, but she never shows an immense amount of emotion over anything. Steinbeck's suggestion that all vices are mere shortcuts to love is epitomized within Alice as she utilizes her skills as a homemaker in order to please Cyrus. Her lack of emotion is what delights her husband, even though there was a whole other side to Alice. Adam quickly identifies with her because he sees that she wants love, too. Like his stepmother, Adam strives to make Cyrus happy, and they are both willing to sacrifice their own virtues in order to do so. Adam finally understands that there are two sides to human nature-including within himself,...