East of Eden

Bookcover I don’t have much to say: it might be the best novel I’ve ever read. I hope it’s true. There are also enough quote-worthy passages to fill another book. Some good ones:

  • “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
  • “I am certain that under their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted shortcuts to love.”
  • “That’s why I’m talking to you. You are one of the rare people who can separate your observation from your preconception. You see what is, where most people see what they expect.”
  • “Tom bruised himself on the world and licked his cuts.”
  • “My Tom is a hell-bent boy. Always takes more on his plate than he can eat. Always plants more than he can harvest. Pleasures too much, sorrows too much. Some people are like that.”
  • “Sometimes a kind of glory lights up the mind of a man. It happens to nearly everyone. You can feel it growing or preparing like a fuse burning toward dynamite. It is a feeling in the stomach, a delight of the nerves, of the forearms. The skin tastes the air, and every deep-drawn breath is sweet. Its beginning has the pleasure of a great stretching yawn; it flashes in the brain and the whole world glows outside your eyes. A man may have lived all of his life in the gray, and the land and trees of him dark and somber. The events, even the important ones, may have trooped by faceless and pale. And then – the glory – so that a cricket song sweetens his ears, the smell of the earth rises chanting to his nose, and dappling  light under a tree blesses his eyes. Then a man pours outward, a torrent of him, and yet he is not diminished.”
  • “A kind of light spread out from her. And everything changed color. And the world opened out. And a day was good to awaken to. And there were no limits to anything. And the people of the world were good and handsome. And I was not afraid any more…. all this coming out of a little hurt girl.”   “And not out of you?”    “Oh no, or it would have come before.”
  • “The emotion of nonviolence was building in him until it became a prejudice like any other thought-stultifying prejudice.”
  • “Adam concealed his treasure deep in his tunnels, but he was inclined to pay for his pleasure with something. Alice began to find gifts ….”
  • “men do not trust themselves any more, and when that happens there is nothing left except perhaps to find some strong sure man, even though he may be wrong, and to dangle from his coattails.”
  • “I went along with them, marveling at the beauty of their proud clean brains … you should have sat through some of those nights of argument and discussion. The questions, the inspection, oh, the lovely thinking – the beautiful thinking.”
  • “Act out being alive, like a play. And after a while, a long while, it will be true.”
  • “You’re going to pass something down no matter what you do or if you do nothing. Even if you let yourself go fallow, the weeds will grow and the brambles. Something will grow.”
  • “It’s like you said about knowing people. I hate her because I know why she went away. I know – because I’ve got her in me.”
  • “We are Cain’s children”
  • “Timshel”

1 thought on “East of Eden

  1. Patty Kenny

    Thank you for this. I will be reading it, shortly. Can’t believe it wasn’t something I read in school. Though, maybe I did, but I hadn’t lived enough, and so I couldn’t have these truths impact me this way.


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