As in life where some people are chosen to be hated and looked down upon for their intolerable acts in society and also those who are embraced and looked to as the pinnacle of how to live, it is in John Steinbeck’s novel East of Eden. As the dominant and hated figure, there is Cathy Ames for her hellish and always fascinating forms of anti-social acts. On the lighter and more appealing side, there is the Chinese servant Lee; the admirable character who’s wisdom helps keep the sanity and morality of those around him.
Indeed, these characters are completely different, but their presence and actions helps shape the novel into the ultimate battle of good versus evil. From the moment of her introduction, Cathy is believed to be one of the “monsters born in the world to human parents. ” An archetype of evil, she is not one of the physically misshapen monsters, but rather one with a malformed soul. The main quality of such a monster involves its dealings of deception to mislead all those around it and to further its own sadistic pleasures.
The deception of Cathy Ames is portrayed early on in her childhood. “Cathy had from the first a face of innocence. ” This was just the first of her many beguiling tricks that would soon haunt the other characters of the novel. Her appearance troubled many people as a child, but they were unable to move away from here. She distributed a disturbance that others tried aimlessly to find the cause to. As a child, her early learning of lies developed. She was not as innocent as an ordinary daydream liar, her lies were used to profit and she never forgot them.
These qualities of deception were quickly learned and perfected by young Cathy and laid the groundwork for a future career of probing others with these traits in order to gain fortune and satisfaction for herself. Such as when she was in her mid-teens and had shown an interest in learning the family business of tannery from her father. Her deception had led him to trust her with all his finances. Along with this new interest in her father’s business, she had laid claim that she was interested in becoming a teacher, which pleased her mother very much.
These little attributes that Cathy laid were the perfect for her later getaway when she faked her own death while she killed her parents by torching their house. After such a promising beginning of deception, it is no surprise that Cathy carried it through her adulthood. From the start of her relationship with Mr. Edwards, she was constantly tricking him and toying with his feelings. Her tactics of stringing him along worked as he “rented a sweet little brick house for her and then gave it to her. He bought her every imaginable luxury, overdecorated the house, kept it overwarm.
The carpeting was too deep and the walls were crowded with heavy framed pictures. ” The constant torment that Cathy caused Mr. Edwards was the first time he had experienced this kind of abuse. She gave him an impression of restlessness, as though she might take flight at any moment. When she knew he was going to visit her, she made it a point to be out and to come in glowing as from some incredible experience. She complained a good deal about the difficulties of avoiding the lecherous looks and touches of men in the street who could not keep away from her.
Several times she ran frightened into the house, having barely escaped a man who had followed her. When she would return in the late afternoon and find him waiting for her she would explain, ‘Why, I was shopping. I have to go shopping, you know. ’ And she made it sound like a lie. Cathy’s methods were to always keep Mr. Edwards off balance and they worked, until the monster within was let out by a few glasses of champagne. The only weak point to Cathy’s vindictiveness was alcohol. Once she had a glass she let all her true feelings and ideas come out.
The insults she let fly at Mr. Edwards were too much and he had to counter the attack and so, he beat her which sent her forth to her next game of deception with the newcomers who would save her from the effects of the ashamed Mr. Edwards. As soon as Cathy’s jaw and the rest of her wounds were close to being healed, she started up her deceit with the Trask brothers. The one thing she didn’t expect was to have no effect on Charles. He didn’t trust her and had no reason to. He knew something about her. The two of them had something in common; the devil flows in their blood.
Charles knew well enough to just leave her alone and to get her out of his house as soon as possible. He gave her subtle threats to get her out soon by “When you had all that dope you talked a lot, like in your sleep And if you just go about your business as soon as you can, I won’t tell. But if you don’t, you’ll know alright, and so will the sheriff. ” These words threatened Cathy because they put her at a loss of control with Charles. She needed to find someone who would trust her enough so she could use them.
Adam had enough trust in her that she was able to control him with ease. With Cathy around, “Adam couldn’t remember ever having been so happy. It didn’t bother him that he did not know her name. She had said to call her Cathy, and that was enough for him. ” Adam was too trusting and made the perfect victim for Cathy. She played his emotions as a sweet girl who was trying to protect her father and he feel for it beautifully. Cathy made him turn against Charles and as soon as she was well, they were married. Throughout their short marriage, Cathy played Adam.
It was even easier for her to do so because he was so blinded by infatuation that he couldn’t see her true intentions. It took one slug from a . 44 Colt to nudge him from the side of blind infatuation over to the side of reality. Only with the help of those who could see Cathy for what she is, was he able to come to his senses and see that she had deceived him and that he could live without her. Perhaps, the last act of deceit that Cathy (now Kate) was involved in is her taking over of Faye’s whorehouse. Faye considered Kate to be the daughter she never had.
Always taking care of and looking out for Faye, Kate surely deserved respect and admiration for this. If only Faye could see behind the fa ade that Kate was hiding behind she could have avoided the lengthy pain that was inflicted upon her. Kate not only had Faye convinced that she was a perfect angel, but the rest of the girls in the house. She cleverly diminished any type of motive that would tie her to Faye’s death. Slowly but surely, Kate broke Faye down until it was expected that she would die on her own. No one knew about the secret poisonings that were soon attributed to botulism.
Kate did everything for Faye while she was sick and ran the house better than ever; no one would ever suspect that Kate had murdered Faye. Deceit has once again triumphed over the weak-minded. To the other side of the spectrum of good and evil, Lee counteracts the wrong of Cathy by his subtle, yet powerful words of action which are of great importance in keeping a balance between the characters in the novel. As an unknown servant, Lee enters the novel as an ignorant and quiet Chinaman who does what he is told and nothing more.
He is accustomed to keeping to himself and when those who think of themselves as superior address him, he speaks in pidgin. Only until Samuel Hamilton befriends him does he feel comfortable enough to speak in plain, unaccented English. Once Samuel has helped him relinquish his reluctance to speak regular English, Lee is able to discuss and further his ability to express knowledgeable bits of wisdom which prove vital to the survival of later characters further on in the novel. The main effect of Lee is felt after Samuel dies and he is left to care for Adam and his two boys.
The words of Lee strike home the most with Cal and Aron. Knowing that Adam isn’t much of a father, Lee must raise the twins to be the best that they can be, both morally and mentally. Lee is the unhappy medium that the boys go to when they cannot turn to their father. They have no other friend that they can turn to for mature insight into their problems. At the time when Cal finds out about his mother, Lee acts as the vessel by which Adam is too afraid to speak about. Lee tells his objective view about what he thought the boys’ mother might be. “She is a mystery.
It seems to me that she is not like other people. There is something she lacks. Kindness maybe, or conscience. You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself. And I can’t feel her. The moment I think about her my feeling goes into darkness. I don’t know what she wanted or what she was after. She was full of hatred, but why or toward what I don’t know. It’s a mystery. And her hatred wasn’t healthy. It wasn’t angry. It was heartless. I don’t know that it is good to talk to you like this. ”Nowhere else but from a trusting friend could Cal get this opinion about his own mother.
Later, Lee goes on to tell Cal the truth about his father after she left him. “He died, he walked around but he was dead. And only recently has he come half to life again. ” This simple quote led Cal to realize that he truly hated his mother and loved his father. The greater realization came when he admitted that his hate for Cathy came “because I’ve got her in me. ” Lee quickly intercedes these feelings by reminding Cal that he may have part of his mother (the evil that everyone has) but he also has the potential to do well. He makes the decision to do good or evil. It is him and only him who can decide his fate.
Timshel! The talk that Lee had with Cal although indirect brought Adam closer to his son. The influence of Lee on Aron, is not too evident, because Aron is too pure and innocent by nature to be able to take the heat of an emotional talk about what is wrong around him. He hasn’t the nature of sin to be able to take it. The only time Aron actually spoke was when Lee confronted him about not telling Adam about his passing of his exams. Lee was willing to fight Aron in order to get a reason why. Aron is then able to talk to Lee and explain what he thinks about what’s going on around him.
The true character of Aron is revealed. He is afraid of the town. He is oblivious as to what is making him feel this way. He is too confused to even think about what the matter with him is. The depths of evil and the depths of truth are two powerful characteristics for people to have. Both make them powerful and almost impossible to ignore. The need to hear and speak with them is overwhelming and nearly mesmerizing. Lee and Cathy are the two figures in East of Eden who convey powerful emotions and thoughts about life and how other characters must live theirs in order to avoid or engulf themselves in their presence.