It’s almost unfair to be doing a review of a truly classic book. They’re classics for a reason. Despite that, I decided to do a review of one of my all-time favorite books: East of Eden by John Steinbeck.
It’s actually been a while since I read this book, but I enjoyed it a lot and I keep coming back to it anyway. There are just so many themes and deep concepts that I love to just reread and think back on some of the most important and memorable parts of the book.
East of Eden is John Steinbeck’s magnum opus, his greatest work.
That’s a huge statement from an author that has written books like The Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, and Tortilla Flat. Steinbeck is one of the greatest authors of all time. He’s world-renowned and has influenced many of today’s authors.
East of Eden was written to be the greatest book John Steinbeck ever produced. It’s supposed to be Steinbeck’s attempt at retelling and readapting the story of the first family from the Bible. The creating of man, Adam and Eve, and the first murder, Cain killing Abel.
Steinbeck wrote the massive 600+ page book to try and show how the tail and the first people is just as completely and totally relevant today as it was when it was written back in Bible times.
East of Eden starts out as the story of two families: the Trasks and the Hamiltons. Throughout the book, the Trasks are the main family and the Hamiltons are used to help get the reader to fully comprehend the depth and meaning throughout the book.
My favorite thing in East of Eden is when they explore the concept of ‘timshel.’
Upon further research, the explanation used in the book for ‘timshel’ is mostly bunk. Though the technical meaning of ‘timshel’ isn’t exact to the explanation in the book, it doesn’t make it less impactful.
In East of Eden, there is a scene where a group of men is hanging out and discussing the Bible. They are discussing a specific scene where the translation of the Bible has changed over time. The word in Hebrew is ‘timshel.’ Steinbeck says, in his book, it translates most accurately to “thou mayest” implying that humanity has a choice of triumphing over sin. This is an argument for free will instead of predestination.
This theme carries throughout the entirety of the book and makes a huge play at the final resolution. I want you to read it, so I won’t explain any more than I have already.
At the end of the day, East of Eden is definitely not a quick or easy read – well, it’s kind of easy to read because it doesn’t use too complex language, but the meaning is deep.
Unless you can read Moby Dick in the same way Ron Swanson does – just a tale of a man trying to kill a fish – East of Eden will get you to think while reading and for a long time after you finish. I still regularly have deep conversations about it with friends and family.