East of Eden
If I were to only able to read one book for the rest of my life that book would be John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. It is a true American epic, portraying the life of the Trask family through three generations from the Civil war to 1917. The main conflict lies between the brothers of the novel. Adam and Charles Trask and Cal and Aaron Trask. The brothers are metaphorical representations of the biblical allegory of Cain and Abel.
Steinbeck bookends the novel with the two fiercest wars that America had been involved in at the time, The Civil War and WWI. This is a great reflection upon the story itself. The Civil War pitted families against families and brother against brothers. Globally WWI did the same by engulfing all of Europe against each other.
While the main conflict of the novel is that between the brothers themselves, there is a secondary one also. When the reader is introduced to Cal Trask, the youngest brother, Steinbeck focuses the prose on Cal’s internal workings. In doing so the reader is given a look at not only how another human faces the prospect of evil in others, but also how he faces it within himself. This depiction and self-realization of an evil lurking within us leaves the reader with a viewpoint that has rarely been seen before.
Credit Wikipedia for image.