What does the title "East of Eden" signify?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Steinbeck's novel East of Eden is a symbolic retelling of the Cain and Abel story set in the fertile Salinas Valley of California, and as such the title alludes to the Biblical passage in which Cain

went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

In the novel, like God who accepts Abel's gift and rejects that of Cain,  Cyrus Hamilton rejects a gift from his son Charles, but accepts a lesser one from his son Adam.  Maddened by this rejection, Charles beats his brother Adam, and then Adam joins the army in World War I. 

Ironically, the story of Eden is reiterated in another fashion with Adam and his wife Cathy as a sin-ridden Eve; With their children, Caleb and Aron, the story of Cain and Abel is retold, as well, as, ironically, Adam rejects a present from his son Caleb while he accepts the gift from Aron.  Having been rejected, Caleb, too, rebels and takes Aron to see his prostitute mother; this event causes disastrous results.