Sunday, December 18, 2011

What I'm Reading: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

I'm reading my favorite book for about the 5th time now (I've lost count). It's probably sacrilegious to say this but I read this book like a lot of Mormons read their scriptures. My paperback copy is all marked up and highlighted. This time through I've been trying to figure out Cathy, the "monster," the antagonist. She's always stumped me a little and I wish I could understand her better. In a normal book, by a normal author, it would be easy to take her at face value; as a one dimensional character who just serves as a foil to the other characters. But it doesn't line up with how wonderfully human Steinbeck's other characters. Every time I read East of Eden I feel like I'm one tiny step closer to understanding her cynicism and unwarranted hate for people. She's tragic really.

I also read what I think is my favorite quote in the whole book today (there are SO many) and thought I'd share it with you:

"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. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror. It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try to so live that our death brings no pleasure to the world.

We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is."

I love this book so much. It's always exploring the dichotomy of good and evil in people, never judging, just stating how things are. Reading this book feels like talking with a friend. It feels like I am known.

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