What is the significance of the novel’s title, East of Eden?

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the biblical tale of Genesis, one of the children of Adam and Eve is exiled by God. The story of this exile is the story of Cain and Abel, a story that serves as the central reference for Steinbeck's novel. The title is drawn from this story, as Cain moves east of the Garden of Eden in his exile, cast out for the murder of his brother. 

The title's significance in the novel is metaphorical on two levels.

First, Steinbeck creates numerous parallels between the figures of the bibical stoy and his characters in the novel. 

...many of the main characters are linked by way of allegory to the Cain and Abel story in the Bible.

The novel can be seen as an allegorical re-interpretation and as a continuation of the Cain and Abel story. 

Also, the Trask family experiences a number of exiles beginning with Cyrus Trask when he is forced to leave his childhood home and join the armed forces. The repeated episodes of exile resonate with the novel's title and the themes of the biblical story. 

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East of Eden

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