East of Eden Topics for Further Study
by John Steinbeck

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Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

World War I is an important part of the background to the last part of the novel. Why did America enter World War I, and what contribution did it make in the war effort?

Analyze the character of Charles Trask and the role he plays in the novel. What are some of the many parallels between Charles and the biblical figure of Cain?

The theme of the novel is that humans can choose good over evil. Discuss this in the context of social problems in America today. Do all criminals, for example, freely choose to commit antisocial acts, or does the environment in which they are born and raised also contribute to their actions? Provide an example of a twentieth-century criminal you believe supports your answer.

Steinbeck said that all the anecdotes of the Hamilton family were true. Read over several of these (Mary wanting to be a boy in chapter 23 and Olive in the airplane in chapter 14 are just two examples), as well as the way Steinbeck describes each member of the family when he first introduces them. Then write an anecdote about a member of your own family.