The only other John Steinbeck’s book I’ve read is The Grapes of Wrath, which was a required reading in high school. It would’ve been impossible for my 16-year-old to imagine reading another one of his books voluntarily. But hey who would’ve thought? A few years later I not only have read one but also written a blog post about it!
Two characteristics of East of Eden that stood out to me were its timeline and amount of details. The novel, set between the beginning of the 20th century and WWI, spans across several generations, resulting in an intertwining and complex story. Steinbeck describes the characters with such great details that you feel like you know them as real people around you by the end of the book.
Through the history of the Trask and Hamilton family in Salinas Valley, East of Eden explores themes of freedom, love, acceptance, and the limit of lies and evilness. My favorite character is Samuel Hamilton, the old wise Irish man. He’s intelligent and calm, able to see the bottom of many things but hardly speaks his mind. As Lee, the similarly wise Chinese servant, describes him, he is “one of the rare people who can separate [his] observation from [his] preconception.” While most people see what they expect, Samuel sees what it really is.
Cathy, on the other hand, is an extreme character in my opinion. Even though Steinbeck began the introduction of Cathy by saying that some people were born monsters, I still find her actions beyond horrid. It’s fate’s cruel joke to make Adam fall for her. He’s so kind but too naïve. He creates a perfect image for the woman he loves. He never sees her, only his creation. Continue reading
“Aging is not just decay…it’s growth. It’s more than the negative that you’re going to die, it’s also the positive that you understand you’re going to die, and that you live a better life because of it.”
People don’t like talking about death. It’s like a taboo. But Morrie had a positive view on it. Understanding death dissipates the fear and enables people to realize how they really want their lives to be. Sometimes people live like they will never die—relentlessly chasing after materialistic values. “We put our values in the wrong things. And it leads to very disillusioned lives.”
Morrie said that the wish to be young again signifies “unfulfilled lives” and “lives that haven’t found meaning.” The meaning of life is different for everyone, but there’s no such thing as “too late” when it comes to finding yours. Morrie was changing until the day he said good-bye.
“As you grow, you learn more. If you stayed at twenty-two, you’d always be as ignorant as you were at twenty-two.”
As my friends and I start to transition from early-twenties to mid-twenties, I can say that quarter-life crisis is definitely valid. Besides realizing that you are an actual adult, I think what freaks young folks out more is the realization that we can’t stay young forever. Since my late teenage years, I always looked back at myself from two years ago and saw so many immature thoughts and actions. The intensity has flattened out a bit; unlike looking at my 18-year-old self when I was 20, I don’t see a complete idiot when I think about my 20-year-old self now. Seeing aging as growth can help us accept getting older, since it will happen anyhow.
“It’s impossible for the old not to envy the young. But the issue is to accept who you are and revel in that.” Everyone gets their turn to be young; and every age has its beauty. But it’s up to you to find what’s “good and true and beautiful in your life as it is now.”
“This is how you start to get respect, by offering something that you have.”
This is one of my favorite quotes from Morrie. Existential crisis occurs when people start questioning the meaning of their lives. Offering what you have. What a beautiful and simple idea. I have a lot to offer! It could be tutoring young kids, volunteering, helping a friend in need, or simply being generous with my compliments. Offering makes you happy! 🙂 Continue reading