ABOUT „EAST OF EDEN“ BY JOHN STEINBECK
The Salinas Valley stretches from Obispo to San Francisco.
John Steinbeck, himself born in Salinas, sat down to write this great epic story in 1951. It is about good and evil, jealousy or the feeling of being rejected, redemption, about the battling conflict between the desire to submit to God and tradition and the human need of selfrealization and above all about TIMSHEL. This may be the most important word in the world.
Vocabulary in English/Italian/German
|jealousy/gelosia/die Eifersucht||to be rejected/essere rifiutato/ abgewiesen werden||redemption/ la redenzione/die Erlösung||a battling conflict/ un conflitto violento/ein gewaltsamer Konflikt||the choice/ la scelta/die Wahl|
In this story the lives of two families, living in the Salinas Valey, California, are intertwined and it spans three generations. The book has 602 pages (there are certainly abridged editions) and some of you may remember the film with James Dean as Cal, the only surviving son of the Trask’s.
To summarize this book would be a very big undertaking and I have therefore decided to write down some quotations and from the book which seem to me very impressive touching and exhilarating and some explanations in reference. To begin with there is a family tree of the Task’s.
The other family involved are the Hamiltons. Samuel is a very special person who manages to rise a big family on an unyielding plot of land and and his very religous wife. They had immigrated from Ireland.
|submit to sb./sottomettersi a qu./sich jd. unterwerfen||intertwined/ intrecciato/verflochten||to span/ abbracciare/überspannen||brothel owner/pro- prietaria di bordello /die Bordellbesitzerin|
The following one is by Lee, Mr. Trask’s Chinese philosopher servant who brought up the twins after their mother had just left them with the father, who she had also shot at and who was unable to come to grips with the situation. Lee, in fact, took care of quite everything in that household and what Steinbeck makes him say in this book has given goose pimples to me!
(We have taken this photo in the region of the Big Sur.)
Lee usually speaks Pigin, despite the fact that he knows English very well and when he suddenly changes into English, spea- king to the charismatic poet-patriarch Samuel Hamilton who had immigrated from Ireland the former explains himself by saying:
„Pidgin they expect, and pidgin they’ll listen to. But English from me they don’t listen to and so they don’t understand it.“ „That’s why I’m talking to you. You are one of the rare people who can separate your observations from your preconception. You see what is, where most people see what they expect.“ (Page 164)
the twins/I gemelli/die Zwillinge
bring up/ far crescere/aufziehen
|come to grips with a problem/ gestire un problema/mit einem Problem klarkommen||goose pimples/ la pella d’oca/die Gänsehaut||to carry out/effettuare/ ausführen|
The Americans look down on servants and above all Chinese servants and Lee explains to Samuel why he is content to be one.
“ I don’t know where being a servant came into disrepute. It is the refuge of a philosopher, the food of the lazy, and properly carried out, it is the position of power, even love.” (Page 166.)
Lee asked Samuel whether he remembered having read to them the 16 verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis and their discussion about it. Samuel did remember and Lee the Chinese servant, who was supposed to be inferior to the indigenous, admitted that after that discussion he and his Chinese friends started to study the bible, or more precisely even the Hebrew version of it and found what follows:
„But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.” (Page 305) These words mean that the human being has a choice and the success or defeat in life does not depend on the blood within himself !!
Lee admits that these studies have not bent him towards God but he discovered a new love for the glittering instrument, the human soul. Timshel will in the end give hope to Cal and he doesn’t have to be like his mother. I hope this is not a new thought to you! Anyway, even Confucius, who lived approx. 5oo years B.C. told people how to live in order to be successful!
Another quotation goes as follows:
“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 so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world.”
|defeat/la sconfitta/die Nederlage||to be bent towards God/ rivolgersi verso Dio/sich Gott zuwenden||glittering instrument /strumento brillante/glitzerndes Instrument||whether/se/ob||dreadful/orribile/ scheusslich|
In the last conversation betwen Kate and Adam, she calls Adam Mr. Mouse and is expecting his sermon.
He answers :“No. I won’t because I seem to know that there’s a part of you missing. Some men can’t see the colour green, but they may never know they can’t. I think you are only part of a human. I can’t do anything about that. But I wonder whether you ever feel that something invisible is around you. It would be horrible if you knew it was there and you couldn’t see or feel it. That would be horrible.“ (Page 386)
Lee is trying to convince Adam to tell the boys the truth about heir mother:
“There’s more beauty in truth, even if it is dreadful beauty.” (Page 356)
When Samuel urges Adam to bring up his boys indifferent of the blood they might have in them the latter answers:
„You can’t make a race horse of a pig .“ Samuel answers: „No, but you can make a very fat pig out of it!“
I hope very much that you feel now like reading this outstanding novel!
Here is a video link to the episode where Cal tells his father that he knows about the mother and what she does and that he, Adam, had never loved them.
Here you can see Cal meeting his mother.
See also my website:http://www.langedi49.ch/langedi49/Home.html