East of Eden Questions and Answers
by John Steinbeck

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What is a good general thesis statement about good and evil from East of Eden by John Steinbeck?

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Eleanora Howe eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Since John Steinbeck's novel East of Eden is a massive book, it's difficult to come up with any general statements that incorporate its entire meaning. However, the novel is a retelling of parts of the Book of Genesis, which chronicles the downfall of the human race and is the birthplace for some of the most basic elements of good and evil in the Western canon, so it's worth thinking about Steinbeck's relation to this question. Again, while the sheer scope of the novel makes it difficult to make sweeping, generalized statements about any one theme, I think it's safe to say that Steinbeck questions traditional, black and white evaluations of good and evil through his construction of the characters Cal and Aron.

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tdzierzak | Student

John Steinbeck unravels the struggle between good and evil both biblically and personally in East of Eden. We are witness to the story of Cain and Abel in the Trask family. Two sets of brothers examine the inherent evil in their bloodline and battle to find redemption with their actions.

Adam and Charles fight over their shared desires. Both seek the love of the same woman and the rights to the family farm. Charles is the stand in for Cain as the brothers plot against each other.

In the next generation of the Trask family the struggle is picked up by Caleb and Aron. These brothers have markedly different appearances which usher them down their selected paths for good and evil. Caleb manifests as Abel as the two brothers fight amongst themselves for the love of their parents.

Lee presents the Trask family with a solution as he focuses his own study on the biblical word timshel which means thou mayest. Each person has the ability to choose for themselves the course that can either lead them to salvation or damnation.