Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*Salinas Valley (sah-LEE-nas). Long narrow depression between Northern California’s Gabilan and Santa Lucia mountain ranges. The Salinas River winds its way up the center of the valley and empties into Monterey Bay. In the novel, the Gabilan Mountains to the east are described as lovely and full of light, presenting to the residents of the valley warm and beckoning foothills. The Santa Lucias to the west, standing between the valley and the sea, are dark, brooding, and dangerous. This contrasting setting enhances the conflicts of the plot—between Adam and his half-brother Charles; between Adam and Cathy, the evil mother of the twins; between Cal and his twin brother, Aron; and between Cal and his father. Biblical parallels with Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel, reinforced by the setting, are made explicit in the second part of the novel, in which Samuel Hamilton reads aloud to a despondent Adam Trask the first sixteen verses of Genesis: 4. Steinbeck, himself, was born in Salinas and spent much of his life in nearby Monterey, which he used as a setting in other novels.
Trask ranch. Family ranch located in the richest part of the Salinas Valley, where the land is lush and fertile. The opposition of good and evil, light and dark—the overt theme of the novel—is further reflected in the contrast between the Trask ranch and the Hamilton farm, which is located in an arid, barren section of the valley.
The Trask ranch parallels the biblical Garden of Eden in that all is not perfect within it. Adam Trask’s wife, Cathy, who is born with a sinful nature, is restive. To get away, she shoots Adam, wounding him both physically and spiritually. A subsequent alteration of the...
(The entire section is 717 words.)
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Bibliography and Further Reading
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Etheridge, Charles L., Jr. “Changing Attitudes Toward Steinbeck’s Naturalism and the Changing Reputation of East of Eden: A Survey of Criticism Since 1974.” In The Steinbeck Question: New Essays in Criticism, edited by Donald R. Noble. Troy, N.Y.: Whitston, 1993. Discusses the novel’s disastrous reception in 1952 and its improving critical reputation since.
Gladstein, Mimi R. “The Strong Female Principle of Good—or Evil: The Women of East of Eden.” Steinbeck Quarterly 24, nos. 1/2 (Winter/Spring, 1991): 30-40. This significant discussion of women in the novel divides the female characters into the...
(The entire section is 265 words.)