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Good and Evil in East of Eden Essay


In East of Eden, Steinbeck accentuates the theme of the confrontation between good and evil by specifying that some people become evil and others are born evil. But what creates a greater dilemma is what Steinbeck later states. Posterior Steinbeck introduces thou mayest which means that everyone has a choice. Steinbeck implies his belief that Cal and Aron both have the power to make their own choices and change their fate and choose to be good or evil. East of Eden is all about the struggle of this concept. In the novel Cathy is one of the characters that is first born evil and cannot overcome it because of her disinterest to overcome it. Her son Cal however is the one that struggles eternally. Many of the characters' struggles are obvious as they grow and learn of the often harsh and unjust world in which they were placed. Charles is torn between good and evil as a child faced with a father that only loves him after Adam. Likewise, Cal feels that he is inferior to Aron's near perfection and must battle with himself constantly. At a point of the novel Cal is introduced with thou mayest relatively in the same time he confronts his mother. Cal at this point is in utter confusement. He decides to try and change his destiny by being a good person. In broad terms he turns to a life with integrity. That for him was not an easy task because he knows, consciously, that he is naturally an evil person. Steinbeck makes sure this struggle is evident because it is the most representative struggle between good and evil in the novel. In East of Eden, Steinbeck makes Cal the main victim of the struggle between good and evil by emphasizing thou mayest.

In East of Eden, The struggle of good and evil is seen constantly throughout the novel in a variety of characters. Cathy, symbolizing Satan, looks for the evil in each person and tries to draw it out and exploit it. Steinbeck says, "And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is." Cathy must change her name and appearance and move often to continue her corrupt work. She does this numerous times and it is to represent Satan (the ultimatum stage of evil). Satan can always conceive new and creative ways to lure people to him and yet the evil always dies and is forgotten. That is one of the most prominent traits that characterize Cathy. Cal realizes of all of this (what Cathy is like) and believes he is just like her and then his greatest desire becomes to be different than his mother and be good. Underneath Cal's harsh appearance, is an earnest desire to live a good life. He has a genuine love for Aron and a desire to protect his weaker sibling. Like his father and uncle before him and his brother. One night he cries and prays to God to help him be good in both his actions and thoughts. Once he gets to know his father better, Cal wants to help him recover some of the money he lost in a business venture and devotes his time to making over $20,000. This is the most evident struggle Steinbeck put in his novel and believes that Cal is the most vulnerable because of his mother and situation with his relationship with his family.

At this point in the story Cal seems to have overcome the struggle between good and evil. He has now been more integrated with his family and is feeling positive and thinking that he has overcome the evil that his mother passed down to him. Steinbeck makes us believe that thou mayest is a belief works if you really want to change. Although things change when Cal presents his gift to Adam in thanksgiving, it is rejected and Cal feels that it is he who is being rejected. He has worked hard for the money and worked for it with good intentions, to help his family and stay out of trouble. Cal who loves and respects his father is turned away while Aron who feels that he is almost too good to talk to his father is honored with a gold watch. This rejection causes Cal to feel that he is evil and that leading a good life is hopeless. Again Steinbeck introduces us with the continuation of the struggle between good and evil through Cal. Steinbeck sets up the correct environment to convince that Cals situation represents all situation between good and evil.

Despite the change in fortune in Cals life with his continuum of struggles he is surprisingly able to advance in life with good in him. At the end of the novel, goodness returns again to Cal. On his deathbed, Adam blesses his only living son, giving him the choice to live his life in either good or evil from that minute onward. Cal now understands that even though he has made mistakes throughout his life, his father's love will always be with him and he is free to live his life righteously. Steinbeck makes sure he strikes Cals and our hearts one last time by changing the way Cal will think for the rest of his life. Cal will think positively at the end because he is more mature and know he has the ability to choose his own paths. Every struggle in the novel is reflected on this last stage of the novels main struggle between good and evil.

The primary struggle of good and evil is completely represented by Cals struggle because of the difficulties and bias of his life and situations. Steinbeck concludes:In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love." Cal's attempt to lead a good life had to start with self-love and self-acceptance. Once he realized that he would make many mistakes in his life and that this was common of all of mankind, he was able to dedicate his life to living it so he will be remembered as a good person. Cal was accepted by both his father and Abra and found the love for which he had been searching for. Steinbeck makes us realize that although we can make our own choices and avoid being good/bad, it might seem that our destiny is inevitable. In Cal, one can see the entire story of East of Eden and its struggle between good and evil.

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