Friday, July 8, 2011

Current Forum: "East of Eden" – Setting

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I like your observation as to why Samuel became a water witch and a well digger. In respect to the surrounding mountains I felt as if Steinbeck was setting the stage for one of those classic good v. evil battles. He begins by detailing the beauty of the valley. He recalls the many wildflowers and explains how he used the surrounding mountains to determine direction. He describes the Gabilan Mountains to the east as light and friendly, whereas the Santa Lucia Mountains to the west were dark and apprehensive. It seems to me he has a thing for the “Ying and Yang”.

Steinbeck sets the stage for good versus evil, as in the bible. We are waiting to see if good will conquer evil throughout the book. We have the good in Samuel Hamilton and at the extreme end Cathy who chooses an evil path for her life.

In keeping with the good/evil theme we have the mountains that Steinbeck describes. In Chapter one he describes the Gabilan Mountains (east of the valley) as light, full of sun and loveliness, then describes the Santa Lucias Mountains (west of the valley) as dark and brooding, unfriendly and dangerous. A clear picture is painted, dark representing evil and light representing good. Thus he found himself in dread of the west and with a love of the east.

In chapter one () Steinbeck goes on to describes the settings that surround the Salinas Valley. In terms of historical references he explains why many of the places are named after saints. When the Spaniards named much of the valley. The priests traveling with the soldiers at that time did much of the naming. Examples of using names of saints such as San Miguel, Saint Michael, and San Bernardo are evident.

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Chapter two states that when the Americans came to the valley, because of their greed they took the lands and remade the laws to make their titles good. This is a historical point of reference indicating how the land was taken over from the Spaniards.

Mrs. Trask manipulated religion to address the sins of the world. She bent the theology to suit the various situations she encountered in her life. So much so that when her husband returned from the war and infected her with a sexual disease she decided that her god of communication became a god of vengeance (page 15). She thought that her dreams of bodily pleasure brought upon this punishment and she ended up taking her own life as a sacrifice for her evil dreams. This is a person taking the theme of the bible to the extreme by sacrificing ones own life for the sin. Mrs. Trask twisted the thought of sacrifice to suit her situation. Unfortunately she used selective reasoning from the bible in that had she truly understood forgiveness she would have know that god forgives all.

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