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Summary & Character Descriptions Of East Of Eden

1381 words - 6 pages

East of Eden Summary & Character Descriptions

 

Because East of Eden is a novel woven together of many people and many stories, it is an especially difficult novel to summarize. It is impossible to draw character sketches without interweaving them with the storyline, thus, I have combined the characters descriptions and plot summary. The book opens by describing the lives of two very different families in very different parts of America. First the Hamiltons, a patriarch built around the wise but impractical Samuel, who emigrated from Ireland in the early 1900's to start a new life in America in the Salinas Valley. He owns a poor farm where he and his wife Liza raise a family of nine children supported by his blacksmithing and odd jobs. Samuel, a main character until his death, is looked up to by everyone in the community and may be viewed in the novel as the representative of good. In an abrupt shift of perspective, the next chapter takes the reader to the Trask family in Connecticut. Cyrus Trask was a veteran who, although a decorated soldier, saw no action during his service. Cyrus is a man who has created a world in his own mind and makes those around him live in it. Cyrus's wife died after his first child, Adam, was born, so one year later Cyrus remarried and had another son, Charles.  Adam was quiet and introspective; Charles was a born athlete who bullied his half-brother and had no fear. Cyrus, through rigorous discipline, was devoted to "making a man" of Adam. It is important to note that Charles and Adam are symbolic of Cain and Able (note the similarity in names) and their father treats them as such. Cyrus always loved Adam more than Charles no matter how much Charles sacrificed for him. Charles, a strong boy, grew very bitter at Adam for this. Like his distant cousin Cain, Charles resented his own God's disdain (his father's) and tried to murder his brother. He fails, and when Cyrus demands to know what caused the fight between the boys Adam tells his father, "He doesn't think you love him."

 

After being introduced to the two main families, we are given a glimpse into the childhood of a character who's position won't be fully understood till near the end of the novel. We meet Cathy Ames, a very beautiful child who, through her beauty, learns to manipulate and hurt people. This character seems to have no motivation for her actions other than pure evil, and though a pivotal character, is probably the least believable character in the novel. She wanted to leave home when she turned sixteen but her parents objected. In cold anger, Cathy then killed them by setting fire to the house while they slept, thus staging her own death. In her new life as Catherine Amesbury, her disregard for any sort of morality or honor led her to become a prostitute. The entrepreneur who ran the business she worked for fell in love with her. She tricked him out of his money, and when he found out he tried to kill her, but she...

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