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What does the title East of Eden signify?

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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 Eve's own family. Cathy's seductive nature parallels Eve's tempting Adam with the forbidden fruit, while Cal and Aron are affected by her "original sin"—that is, abandoning them after they are born.

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The novel East of Eden is written as a parallel to the famous story of Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel. The story follows a similar sort of dysfunctional family in California, both seen as an oasis and a desert, and makes many Biblical allusions and references throughout.

In the Bible story, once the characters of Adam and Eve fail to uphold God’s law by eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they are cast out of out Eden to the East. Biblically, the East is typically symbolic of sin and death, and so the sinners were cast out of paradise into the land of death. Later, after Cain murders his brother, he is sent to the land of Nod, or wandering, and is cast out further east. The novel essentially relates this dysfunctional family as they try to repair the damage in their lives and gain forgiveness for their sins, echoing the idea of the first people to sin living in the land of death near paradise.

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John Steinbeck's novel East of Eden does exist as a retelling of the story of Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel. A text which may provide readers with a deeper understanding of the title of the novel may come from another of Steinbeck's works: Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters.

Numerous times throughout this text, Steinbeck references the Bible and the moral questions which arise in the stories of both Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel. In the journal, he refers to his novel as "the first book." This reference openly parallels the first book of the Bible—Genesis. He goes on, in his journal, to state,

I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil.

This reference to the single story which frightens us all is the original story of murder and free will—the story of Cain and Abel.

The Bible openly refers to Nod, a place east of Eden. This is the place where God exiled Cain to after he murdered Abel. One could infer that this also references the idea that mankind, as we have known it since Adam and Eve's own exile from Eden, cannot exist in Eden. We are sinful beings—we have been since the original sin was committed. Therefore, mankind is forced to live in a place near Eden, but not Eden itself. The characters within the novel are forced to exist within this same state—they can see it, the good place, but they cannot access it. The characters, therefore, represent the Everyman. They, like all of mankind, possess free will. They are able to make decisions—for the better or for worse—and the novel's title and action remind readers of this fact.

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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.

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What is the meaning behind the title of Steinbeck's East of Eden?

The title of East of Eden comes directly from the Bible: "And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden" (Genesis 22.4.30). It refers to the place where Cain was banished after the murder of his brother. The land of Nod is a place outside of the paradise Eden, a garden to which mankind can no longer return.

Steinbeck models Adam, Catherine, Cal, and Aron on the biblical Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel. East of Eden is a retelling of this story from Genesis but in the context of the odyssey of an American family. The title reminds us that the biblical first family was forced to reside outside of paradise, but also very close to it. We see this with the Trasks, who are so close to their imagined California paradise but are subjected to the less than ideal, and in fact quite cruel, nature of humanity. They try to create their own paradises, but through various decisions and circumstances, are forever outside of what they seek. Therefore, metaphorically, they all live "east of Eden," just as Cain was forced to.

However, we also must look at what is promised to Cain when he is banished to the land of Nod. Samuel, Adam, and Lee are drawn to the Bible passage in which God gives Cain the opportunity for redemption. This is a key passage for them as it provides them with the hope that they and others can take redemption into their own hands. Various times throughout this story, Steinbeck's characters find the possibility of redemption and this is a theme that is central to the story.

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What is the meaning behind the title of Steinbeck's East of Eden?

The title of John Steinbeck's East of Eden is an allusion to the Book of Genesis in the Bible. Genesis begins with the creation of the world and Adam and Eve's life in the Garden of Eden, a paradise of bliss and innocence. As you're no doubt aware, Adam and Eve sin and are thrown out of the garden. Following this experience, Eve gives birth to two sons, Cain and Abel, and Cain eventually murders Abel out of jealousy.

By making an explicit allusion to this classic Bible story, Steinbeck deliberately signals that he's going to parallel it. Adam and Cathy (later Kate) parallel Adam and Eve in some ways (often with a twist, especially in Cathy's case), while their sons, Cal and Aron, closely resemble Cain and Abel (also with a twist). Thus, Steinbeck turns his novel of the Trask family into an epic saga with moral and philosophical weight similar to the Bible's. Since the title of the book and the Biblical allusion in it is essential to signaling this intention, the title is a vital aspect of the book's central themes and meaning.

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

In the classic novel East of Eden, John Steinbeck tells a multigenerational story mainly set in the Salinas Valley in central California. In a parallel to the story of Adam and Eve's children Cain and Abel, the main characters of the novel are two generations of fathers, each of whom have two sons, one of which the fathers show more affection to than the other. Significantly, the pairs of sons each have names that start with C and A, an obvious reference to Cain and Abel.

Cyrus Trask has sons named Charles and Adam. He favors Adam over Charles, and as a result, Charles is jealous of Adam. Adam Trask's children are named Caleb and Aaron. Aaron is his father's favorite, and Caleb desperately attempts to win his father's good will.

Steinbeck uses the Biblical story of Cain and Abel as a major theme in his story, especially in the relationships between the two pairs of brothers. You can find the story in the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, in chapter 4. Cain is Adam and Eve's firstborn. He is a farmer, who works hard to till the ground, and Abel is a shepherd, who takes care of flocks of sheep. They both sacrifice to the Lord, but the Lord accepts only Abel's sacrifice. In jealousy Cain kills his brother Abel, and as a result, God banishes Cain from his family and drives him away to be "a fugitive and a vagabond" upon the Earth. The title of the novel East of Eden refers to the place to which Cain is driven. Genesis 4:16 in the King James Version of the Bible says:

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

Eden is the paradise that God had originally created for Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel's parents. Their parents had been driven out for their own transgressions and disobedience to God's commandments.

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

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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