“I will tell…the greatest story of all – the story of good and evil, of strength and weakness, of love and hate, of beauty and ugliness. I shall try to demonstrate…how these doubles are inseparable.” – John Steinbeck, Journal of a Novel
Steinbeck considered East of Eden to be his masterpiece. In his journal, Journal of a Novel (often read as a companion to the novel) he notes that “this is the book I have always wanted and have worked and prayed to be able to write.” Set primarily in the Salinas Valley in the early twentieth century, the novel traces three generations of two families – the Trasks and the Hamiltons – as they grapple with the ever-present forces of good and evil. From this plot emerged some of Steinbeck’s most fascinating characters – many of whom are modeled after people in his own life.
Part allegory, part autobiography, and part epic, East of Eden was an ambitious project from the start – a gift to Steinbeck’s sons that was meant to teach them about identity, grief, and what it means to be human. Tinged with biblical echoes of the fall of Adam and Eve and the rivalry of Cain and Abel, this sprawling saga has captivated audiences everywhere for generations. It is through the popularization of East of Eden that the Salinas Valley was truly transformed into “the valley of the world”; a place where everyone is able to find a piece of themselves in the golden, rolling hills.
Did you know? Jo Van Fleet won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Cathy/Kate in the 1955 film adaptation of East of Eden.
“East of Eden made me fall in love with my home, the Salinas Valley, all over again.” – Jenna Garden, NSC Intern (summer 2017)