East of Eden

east-of-edenThe 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

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The Great Gatsby

the-great-gatsbyI have very mixed emotions about the Great Gatsby. Gatsby, in my opinion, is a tragic hero. His dream was set up for failures. People and things change as time goes by, whether you like it or not. Like C.S. Lewis once said, “isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different?” I don’t think Gatsby would’ve agreed with this quote. Remember when he cried, “Can’t repeat the past?…Why of course you can!”?
As for Daisy, she didn’t intentionally want to hurt anyone, She’s a girl who didn’t know what she wanted and chose to live a safe and conventional life. Maybe she’s what she hoped her daughter would be, “a beautiful little fool”, but is it really “the best thing a girl can be in this world”?

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

Having spent the last four years at Berkeley and soon working in the Financial District, it’s sometimes easy to forget how privileged I am. But when I take a step back and look at my life from outside of my daily bubble, I can’t help but think, yes the world isn’t fair, but I have no right to complain anyway cause I’ve pretty much lucked out!

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

I’m totally on board with the idea that life is too short to live in the past. But sometimes it’s inevitable to fall back into memories. Human beings continually change as every passing moment gets integrated into their lives and becomes a part of who they are. In a sense every moment is a defining moment. The deal with Gatsby is that he stopped moving forward while the world around him is. Continue reading