East of Eden Questions and Answers
by John Steinbeck

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What does the title East of Eden signify?

The title East of Eden is a reference to the Book of Genesis and signifies a parallel between the Hamiltons and the Trasks, and the family of Adam and Eve.

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The title East of Eden is a reference to the story of Cain and Abel. After killing his brother in a fit of jealous rage, Cain is condemned to a lifetime of wandering by God. In Genesis 4:16, Cain is described as going "east of Eden" into the land of Nod.

The direct references to the Cain and Abel story do not end with the title. Both sets of brothers featured in the book—Charles and Adam, and Aron and Caleb—mirror Cain and Abel (the latter pair are even named after them). Cain and Abel are typically viewed as opposites: Cain is treacherous and evil, while Abel is virtuous and good. Similarly, such dualism is suggested in the relationships between the two sets of brothers, though Steinbeck complicates the idea that one brother is good while the other is evil every time by emphasizing the importance of choice in moral action and the possibility of redemption for those who have done evil things in the past.

The dysfunction of the families in the novel evokes the dysfunction of Adam and...

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