East of Eden Questions and Answers
by John Steinbeck

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Why did Steinbeck give more importance to the Cain and Abel than to the story of Adam and Eve in East of Eden

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think that Steinbeck is more fascinate with Cain and Abel because of its implications on evil and the nature of being in the world.  Certainly, the narrative of Adam and Eve is a part of this.  Yet, for Steinbeck, the interesting element is how the children inherit the world given to them.  Cain and Abel being the offspring of Adam and Eve represent how they interpret good and evil in the world.  To this extent, Steinbeck is interested in how the nature of youth interprets what has been given to them.  The development of evil, the lack of regard for another, and what it means to be discarded are all implications that are reflective of the descendants and inheritors of the world rather than with those who originated it.  For this reason, Steinbeck ends up giving more importance to the idea of Cain and Abel and where the role of evil stood with both of them than with their parents, Adam and Eve.  As Steinbeck seeks to understand and transform the world from what it is to what it should be, it becomes evident that the narrative of the children is critical in accomplishing this end.

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