East of Eden Review: 7 Life Lessons from the Book

The title of the post says East of Eden review. However, what you are about to read is how subtly and profoundly this book teaches us about life lessons, mistakes, human psychology, and the consequences of your actions. 

East of Eden is my favorite book of all time. It is a classic fiction book, and I will recommend it to anyone who thinks fiction books have less intellectual value. 

What is East of Eden about? 

It’s basically about the Trask family, especially two brothers, Adam and Charles Trask, who had similar characters and life as the children of Adam (or Charles, depending on how you see it), Cal and Aaron. 

Adam and Charles have similar motivations and ideas about life as Aaron and Cal. 

Of course, the book has other amazing characters, such as Cathy Ames and Lee who play essential roles in how the story pans out.

East of Eden Review: 7 Lessons from The Book

The truth is we are not really doing an East of Eden review. We are looking at some of the lessons you can reflect on if you have already read the book.

#1. Understand your beliefs and how it’s influencing your decision

Everyone believes in something, and these things move us.

  • Charles Trask believes that life is tough, and when you want something, you take it. 
  • Adam Trask believes life is tough, but he can’t understand why. He wishes everyone could just stay calm and smile. 

In the book, we consciously follow how the character’s beliefs influence their decisions and see the consequences as we read.

#2. You can capture a fish, but it won’t live on grass

My favorite character from the book is Cathy. From the start, we learn that she wants to be free and do things. She could not be “tamed.” But she was a woman. The story was set in the past when women had limited options regarding what they could do for a living or opportunities. 

Cathy did many things to show that she wanted to be free. She burnt down a house to fake her death. Then she left town, never to be heard of again. 

When she met two brothers, she was interested in one of them, Charles. 

Charles understood her personality. He knows she is the type of woman that wants to be free, so it’s best to let her be or do her thing.

But the other brother is all over her, like a boy with a new toy. 

Cathy had sex with Charles, married Adam, and gave birth to twins. After giving birth, she wanted to leave her husband, but Adam tried to change her mind. Eventually, she shot him in the arm and left. 

You can capture a fish, but it won’t live on grass.

#3. Everyone has a priority, something they live for

Your actions and decisions say otherwise even if you say you don’t know what you live for.

It’s hard for someone who — deep down — stands for freedom and independence to settle for certain things like a normal job or marriage. I mean, look at Cathy. (We can write an entire review on her character instead of writing an East of Eden review.

#4. Human nature does not change

Our natures have been different and the same since the beginning of time. On the surface, we need food, water, and accommodation. 

On a deeper level, we seek freedom, respect, community, adventure, and other intangible things. It is in our nature.

Many years ago, the bible told a story of two brothers, Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel because he couldn’t understand why their “father” liked Abel much more. Cain wanted to be loved as much as his brother or even more. So he ended up killing Abel.

In East of Eden, Cal Trask indirectly killed his own brother, Aaron Trask, for a similar reason. He wanted to be in his father’s good book, but he was not getting that attention. 

These things still happen today in our society. Although people don’t go about killing others for being liked or favored as often, people still want things like love, acceptance, recognition, etc. If they can’t get it, they can resort to many things, from hatred and murder to even suicide. 

Another example from the East of Eden book is CATHY Ames. She showed that she couldn’t change her nature. Not by marriage or moving to a new city or old age. 

It’s inbuilt since childhood and for life, but you can work on it. However, it doesn’t mean that part of the person will go away totally.

This point is one of the beauties of the East of Eden book — seeing the characters holding on to their true nature till the end or, as we notice in Cal — consciously choosing a different path. 

Many of us may not have that opportunity in real life.

#5. You are consciously choosing who you want to become

You hurt your brother today. Tomorrow, you burn down a house. The day after, you rob someone on the road. These are thought-out actions, a reflection of who you will eventually become. 

It could be another way around. Today, you leave a gift for someone without telling them you are the one. Next, you show empathy to your stepmother, and the next, you write letters to your brother every week even though they didn’t write back. 

You are consciously becoming the person you want to be. 

#6. Many of us are just replicas of our forefathers or mothers, but we are another generation, and time

In this book, we see a similar sibling rivalry — Cal Vs. Aaron and Adam Vs. Charles. 

We started with Adam and Charles. Many years later, we read about their kids and can’t help but notice how Cal and Aaron have similar characteristics and behaviors as Adam and Charles.

If we all could watch the lives of our fathers, grandmothers, or great-grandmothers closely through their lives, we would see that they all came back in different times and generations. (Yeah, you could say East of Eden got me thinking that way.)

#7. Our personality and belief can make it difficult for us to understand others

People like Aaron find it hard to deal with the reality of life. They struggle to understand why people are so cruel, angry, or fighting. 

When I was a boy, I struggled to understand why people would put a gun on another man’s head and ask them to let go of what clearly belonged to them. 

In this book (and in real life), we see this happen many times. For example, we see other characters looking at other characters and asking questions, like why are they that way?

Adam: why is my stepmother so calm and forgiving and so helpless in her marriage?

Cathy: why is Adam so calm and easy to fool and wouldn’t listen despite how often she showed him she didn’t care?

Aaron: Why did our mother choose to be like that?

So why is East of Eden a good book?

For one, it’s literary fiction. It doesn’t belong to one genre. It portrays life as it is.

But that’s me. I love fiction that covers all the intricacies of life —- marriage, work, given birth, identity, fate, parenting — you name it. East of Eden covers all of these things in many directions and dimensions. For instance, if we look at ‘sibling relationships.’ It covers Adam and Charles Trask’s relationship — different mothers, the same father, and fighting about things like who has their father’s love. Then, in another generation and the later part of the book, we read about another sibling relationship, Aaron and Cal — the same mother, but the mother is on the loose. We are not even sure if they are being raised by their real father. 

So why is east of Eden a good book? The simple is that it uniquely covers the complexities of life and shows different sides of the same topic without boring you.

Further readings:

5 Life Lessons from The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas

5 Lessons from A Private Experience by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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