Printing History
First published in the United States of America by the Viking Press, Inc., 1952
First published in Penguin Books 1979
Reissued in Penguin Books 1986
Copyright John Steinbeck, 1952
Copyright renewed Elaine Steinbeck, John Steinbeck IV, and Thom Steinbeck, 1980

Main Characters
2Samuel Hamilton comes to Salinas Valley from northern Ireland around 1870
Liza Hamilton Samuel's wife
3Adam Trask born on a small Connecticut farm
Cyrus Trask Adam's father, wounded civil war vet
Alice 17-year-old Trask neighbor
Charles Trask son of Cyrus and Alice
5George Hamilton eldest son, virtuous
Will Hamilton second son, conservative, rich
Tom Hamilton third son, like his dad, sexual
Joe Hamilton fourth son, mooning and lazy, college type
Una Hamilton eldest girl, thoughtful, studious
Lizzie Hamilton possibly eldest, hateful
Dessie Hamilton next girl, always laughing, dressmaker
Olive Hamilton (Steinbeck) author's mother, a teacher
Mollie Hamilton youngest, blond, violet eyes, pretty
6Mr. Hallam innkeeper
Mr. Edwards Boston whoremaster with a religious wife and two sons in Groton
Cat bartender in Niagara Falls
8Cathy Ames a girl aka Catherine Amesbury and Kate Albey
William Ames Cathy's father, runs a tannery in MA
Mrs. Ames Cathy's mother
James Grew Cathy's Latin teacher
13Dr. Tilson King City physician, treats Cathy
Mr. Bordoni Immigrant Swiss who owns the Sanchez ranch.
Louis Lippo rancher near King City
14Martin Hopps neighbor boy in Salinas, killed in WWI
Mary the author's sister
15Lee Trask's Chinese cook
17Rabbit Holman workman at Trask's
Lopez an Indian laborer at Trask's
18Horace Quinn sheriff's deputy in King City
Julius Euskadi well-to-do Basque neighbor of Trask
Sheriff (un-named) long-term sheriff in Salinas
19Fartin' Jenny madam of Salinas' fun loving house
the Nigger madam of Long Green, the serious whorehouse
Faye the new madam from Sacramento
20Cotton Eye piano player at Faye's
Clarence Monteith Woodman of the World member
Dr. Wilde a physician
Ethel a girl at Faye's
Grace a girl at Faye's
Alex the cook at Faye's
21Georgia a girl at Faye's
Trixie a girl at Faye's
22Caleb (Cal) Trask twin
Aaron (Aron) Trask twin
23Anderson Una's husband, photographic chemist
Mathilde Danish girl, works for Olive Steinbeck
Mamie Dempsey marries George Hamilton
William J. Martin Mollie Hamilton's husband
Ernest Steinbeck Olive Hamilton's husband, John's father
Deila Will Hamilton's wife
25Mr. Lapierre bartender at the Abbot House
Eva receptionist at Kate's
Ralph pimp at Kate's
27Mr. Bacon county supervisor
Mrs. Bacon his wife
Abra Bacon their daughter
29Joe (Roy) Will Hamilton's Ford mechanic
30George Harvey Connecticut lawyer
32Clarence Morrison dry goods store owner in Salinas
Agnes Morrison Clarence's wife, lives at 122 Church
33Red Duncan Tom's neighbor down the county road
38Chief Heiserman Salinas constable
Tom Watson old man in Salinas
Mr. Rolf young Episcopal clergyman
40Joe Valery bouncer at Kate's
Anne girl at Kate's
41Rantani Swiss Italian renting Trask's place
45Wilson Joe's poolhall friend in Watsonville
Hal V. Mahler poolhall owner in Santa Cruz
46William C. Burt Home Guard, dies doing push-up
Mr. Fenchel German tailor in Salinas
Henry Stanton Draft Board member
48Butch Beavers friend of Joe's
Alf Nichelson Salinas handyman
Mr. Griffin owner of Griffin's saloon
Thelma a girl at Kate's
Helen a girl at Kate's
49Axel Dane San Jose recruiting sergeant
Corporal Kemp Dane's assistant
50Therese a girl at Kate's
Florence a girl at Kate's
Oscar Noble deputy sheriff
51Joe Laguna buys whisky for Cal
53Tom Meek Salinas constable
54Dr. H.C. Murphy Salinas physician
Dr. Victor Edwards Trask family physician

Places mentioned, Chap 1:2, East of Eden.
Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties.
Italicized points are civil divisions rather than populated places or geographical features.
locations determined through USGS/GNIS database

Prefacing Letter to Pascal Covici

Dear Pat,
    You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said, "Why don't you make something for me?"
    I asked you what you wanted, and you said, "A box."
    "What for?"
    "To put things in."
    "What things?"
    "Whatever you want," you said.
    Well, here's your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts—the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.
    And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you.
    And still the box is not full.

note [from Jackson J. Benson's biography of Steinbeck, p 687]: John also asked Pat to get the Hebrew characters for timshol—he had a secret purpose, he told Pat, that he couldn't reveal as yet. He was spending his evenings carving a box that would hold the manuscript of the novel and the accompanying journal, and when his work on the book was completed, he planned to surprise his editor by presenting the box and its contents to him as a gift. On the cover of the box, he would carve the title of the novel and below, the Hebrew word. It was a surprise he planned in great delight and anticipation, but when Pat and Dorothy visited them in Nantucket in late July—early August, he couldn't wait and showed them the box.

California cities mentioned in East of Eden

GENESIS 4:1-16

1  And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.
2  And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
3  And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.
4  And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
5  But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
6  And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
7  If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
8  And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
9  And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?
10  And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.
11  And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;
12  When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
13  And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear.
14  Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.
15  And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.
16  And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.

Salinas Valley places mentioned in East of Eden

Main & Market Streets, Salinas, CA
Market was called Castroville Street
map based on one generated by Bigbook

Olive and Ernest Steinbeck Home
132 Central Ave (at Stone St), Salinas
source: Steinbeck Research Center

image in the West End School seventh grade classroom attended by Aron and Cal
source: Musei Vaticano

Book Blurb — Penguin 1986
"A fantasia of history and myth ... a strange and original work of art"
The New York Times Book Review

This magnificent novel—considered by many to be Steinbeck's best—is the story of the Trasks and the Hamiltons, two families drawn by the current that brought settlers to the rich farmlands of California. As he traces the families through three generations, Steinbeck retells the Biblical story of Adam and of Cain and Abel, and his characters are forced to re-enact the ancient drama of exile to the east of an always elusive Eden.

"A moving, crying pageant, with wilderness strength"

—Carl Sandburg

Chapter Summary
1The natural history of the Salinas Valley. Human settlement: Indian, Spanish, American place names.
2Samuel and Liza Hamilton leave northern Ireland and settle east of what is now King City. They have nine children and eleven quarter sections of marginal farmland. Samuel is a blacksmith, inventor, and the only thing that passes for a doctor.
3Adam Trask's father lost his lower leg his first hour in the Civil War. After his wife drowned herself he married a neighbor girl who bore him Charles. He developed a passion for all things military. Charles beats Adam. Cyrus talks to Adam of soldiering, which Adam doesn't want to do. Charles is jealous of Cyrus' love for Adam. Charles beats Adam terribly then looks for him with a hatchet.
4Cyrus goes after Charles with a shotgun and enlists a bedridden Adam in the cavalry. In five years of Indian fighting he becomes more anti-violent. Charles writes of Alice's consumptive death and Cyrus' move to join the Grand Army of the Republic in Washington.
5Samuel's love of books, poetry, drawing. Will's success in business. Characteristics of all the Hamilton children. Liza's hatred of wine until she thought of it as medicine.
6Charles scars his forehead. Adam discharged in 1885; on his way home he re-enlists and is ordered to the War Department where Cyrus offers him opportunities. Charles has the house cleaned for Adam's visit which never happens. They write once a year.
7Adam discharged in San Francisco 1890, becomes a bindlestiff. Wanders for three years, spends almost six months on a Florida road gang before escaping. Charles hears of his father's death and mysterious wealth. Adam comes home and they discuss where their father's hundred thousand dollars came from and what to do with it.
8Are moral monsters born? Mrs. Ames opens the carriage house to find 10-year-old Cathy being played with by two 14-year-old boys. At 14 her Latin teacher blows his head off in church. At 16 she runs away to Boston, is brought home and beaten. She becomes a model girl overnight. Her parents' burned corpses are found in remains of their locked house. The tannery's money and Cathy are missing, with some evidence that she has been taken away.
9Cathy, now Catherine Amesbury, comes to Mr. Edwards; he falls in love with her, and she torments him. He reads about the fire in her home town, goes to her house, forces her to go with him. He intends to put her to work, beats her, thinks he has killed her and returns to Boston.
10Adam goes to Boston for eight months. Back home two years, Adam begins to dream of California. After another quarrel, Adam leaves, goes to Rio and Buenos Aires, then home again. Adam tells Charles about his prison term.
11Cathy shows up at the Trask farm beaten nearly to death. Adam cares for her, Charles dislikes her. The day Adam marries Cathy she tricks him into drinking her opium medicine, then climbs into bed with Charles.
12The year is 1900. Reflections on leaving the 19th century.
13Individual creativity versus collectivism. After selling out to Charles, Adam and Cathy look for ranch land in the Salinas Valley. Cathy tries to abort. Adam studies the Bordoni ranch halfway between King City and San Lucas. Louis Lippo takes Adam to meet Sam Hamilton who talks a great deal about the Valley. Next day Adam buys the Sanchez place from Bordoni.
14Olive becomes a teacher at the Peach Tree School in Wildhorse Canyon. She becomes secretly engaged to a young man who built a flour mill in King City. After marrying him she lives first in Paso Robles, then King City, then Salinas. She has four children: the author and his three sisters. She sells liberty bonds to avenge the war death of Martin Hopps. She takes a ride in an army biplane which does stunts over the Spreckles Sugar Factory.
15Adam begins fixing up the old Sanchez place. Cathy's pregnancy advances. Samuel discusses being Chinese with Lee, learns he's from Grass Valley and been to UC Berkeley. Samuel water-witches the Trask farm. Adam tells Samuel he intends to create an Eden for his Eve. Samuel senses something wrong during their outdoor supper. Lee asks him if he needs a cook. Cathy tells Adam she doesn't want to be there.
16Samuel rides Doxology home and realizes Cathy's eyes remind him of a very bad blonde man who was hung in Londonderry when Samuel was a boy. Liza probes Samuel about Cathy and chides him about never getting paid for work.
17The Hamiltons dig one well then another at the Trask place. The drill runs into a meteorite. Lee rides out to get Samuel because the baby is coming. Cathy snarls and bites Samuel's hand. She delivers two boys. Liza comes for a week to help. Later she tells Samuel that Lee is Presbyterian and, therefore, the twins are in good hands. After sending Lee to King City Cathy tells Adam she's leaving, says he can drop the babies in one of his new wells, shoots him with his .44 Colt, and walks out.
18Deputy Quinn rides out to interview Adam about the shooting, which he claims was an accident. After grilling him, Quinn deputizes Julius to stay with Adam while he goes for the sheriff. Quinn rides a freight to Salinas where he runs into Will Hamilton who suggests he run for sheriff. The sheriff believes Cathy is the new whore who started working at Faye's on Sunday. Samuel visits Adam and tells him to go through the motions of living.
19Salinas' whorehouses and their madams. Cathy, now called Kate, becomes the perfect girl at Faye's: good clientele, kind to the other girls, supervises groceries/cooking and laundry. The sheriff tells her to keep her new identity and cause no trouble. She helps Faye get a walnut shell out of her teeth.
20Faye asks Kate to be her daughter and quit working. Kate, Ethel and Grace get bored waiting for the Woodmen of the World to show. They don't because a member dies from a heart attack. Faye writes a will leaving everything to Kate. Kate makes sure Faye falls into a deep sleep then torments her to make her think she's having terrible dreams.
21Kate makes sure the other girls know of the will. She lets herself into Dr. Wilde's dispensary. Kate rewards everyone with presents. Alex thinks he decided to start a cannery in his kitchen. Faye plans for Europe in the summer. Kate manages to give herself and Faye botchulism from string beans (and an eye dropper). After Faye passes it's Trixie who remembers the will.
22Fifteen months pass. Samuel runs into Lee at Will's King City store and learns the twins have not been named. He rides out to the Trask place and beats Adam. Lee cooks chicken and joins them for lunch (he's dropped his accent). Samuel reads Genesis 4:1-16. They discuss Cain's (mankind's) response to rejection. They name the boys Caleb and Aaron.
23Una marries, moves near Oregon, and dies. Her death strikes Samuel deeply. George is in insurance, Will is rich, Joe is in advertising, the girls are married except Dessie who has a dress shop in Salinas. Uncle Tom announces his arrival with gum; he takes John fishing, is dark and poetic. Thanksgiving 1911, the clan discusses Samuel's aging. They plot to have him visit all of them. Ollie sends her invitation. Tom will remain in charge of the place while Samuel and Liza go to Salinas.
24Samuel says good-bye to his land and friends. The Trask boys are eleven. Lee has cut off his queue (the Dowager Empress is dead). Adam has heard that Cathy is in Salinas. He asks Samuel to help him start up his farm, but Samuel expects to go on visiting: George in Paso Robles, Mollie in San Francisco. Aron raises rabbits; Cal is into gardening. Lee tells of his interest in Genesis, his visit to the Lees in San Francisco, and the study of Hebrew. In Gen. 4:7, Hebrew timshel  means 'thou mayest', not KJV: 'thou shalt' or ASB: 'do thou', triumph over sin. "I feel that a man is very important thing—maybe more important than a star." (Lee, p 399) Samuel tells Adam of Kate's depraved whorehouse in Salinas.
[note: the word is actualy timshol.]
25Relatives gather at Olive's after Samuel's funeral. Adam walks through the rain to the Abbot House bar. There he learns where Kate's is. She and he drink rum. They fight. She suggests the twins are Charles'. She tells the bouncer to give him the boots, but Adam leaves.
26Back in King City, Adam goes to Will's to buy a car. Back at his farm Lee, who sees Adam is cured, asks to move to San Francisco to open a Chinatown bookstore.
27The boys kill a rabbit. Cal says men in King City said their mother ran away. A storm forces the Bacons to stop off at Trask's. Abra lords her Salinas urbanity over the boys. What Aron and Cal would do with anthills. Aron gives his rabbit (with a wedding note in the box) to Abra who tosses it from their rig.
28Adam discusses rabbits and school with Cal and Aron. How Lee's mother and father came to work on the railroad, and how his father had to claw him out of her gang-raped body. Adam writes to Charles, first time in ten years, about coming west.
29Will Hamilton delivers Adam's new Ford. Joe the mechanic shows Adam, Lee and the boys how to start the car.
30Adam learns that Charles died six months earlier. His lawyer George Harvey informs Adam he's inheriting over one hundred thousand dollars. Aron tells Cal he wishes he knew why Cal plotted so much. Lee and Adam discuss whether Kate should get half the inheritance as stipulated in the will. Cal prays to be more like Aron, less mean. He tells Aron their dad is sending a carnation wreath east for their mother's grave, kept fresh with ice.
31Adam takes the train to Salinas. Shows Kate the letter. She suspects a plot. He leaves. He goes to 132 Central (Steinbeck's) to see Liza. Meets Polly Parrot who's lived on a ship for fifty years. She asks Adam to visit Tom. So does Will whom Adam meets at the San Francisco Chop House. They ride the train back together.
32Will goes to Dessie and asks her not to sell her dressmaking business (which is falling on hard times) and move back with Tom. Says Tom is broody since Samuel's death, writes poetry. Dessie defies Will, sells her house to Adam, and moves back to the Hamilton Ranch, with Tom who is ecstatic.
33Dessie has pains in her side. She and Tom decide to go to Europe. Will puts a damper on their plan to pay for it. Dessie dies. Tom writes letters to his Mother and Will, puts a bullet in his revolver, drops the letters off in King City, and rides home.
34Philosophy: measuring a man's presence as he dies.
35Lee leaves Adam and the boys in Salinas to open his bookstore in San Francisco. Aron says he'll come back; Cal bets him he won't. Unable to stand the loneliness, Lee returns after six days.
36Description of the West End School. Cal and Aron are in seventh grade (which has a picture of Laocoön). Cal is feared, not liked; Aron is loved, respected. Aron meets Abra and the play house under willow, husband and wife, son and mother. Abra tells Aron she heard his mother is alive. Aron decides she told only what she heard.
37Lee uses Adam's money to furnish the house. Adam, impressed by the new icebox, asks Will about buying the icehouse to ship lettuce to New York. Will advises: buy beans and store them. Adam buys the icehouse and ships six boxcars of lettuce. A series of disasters destroys the lettuce. Aron tells Abra how much he resents Adam's failure. Cal is jealous of Aron with Abra.
38Cal craves Adam's love. On his nightly roaming, he meets Rabbit Holman up from San Ardo, gets him drunk, learns about Kate, and goes to Kate's with him. Lee confirms what he's learned and assures him he can't avoid responsibility by knowing his ancestry. Aron is confirmed Episcopal; he decides he should enter the ministry and that he and Abra should remain celibate.
39Cal is arrested in a police crackdown on Chinese gambling houses. After Adam brings him home, he and Cal have a long talk. Adam finds out that Cal knows about his mother. Cal begins to study his mother's movements every Monday. After eight weeks she demands to know why he's following her. He says she's his mother, and she brings him into her house. She tells him he's like her; he denies it and runs out.
40Ethel returns to Kate's in an effort to blackmail her over Faye's death. Kate pays the first $100 payment, then has Ethel arrested for stealing the money. The judge throws Ethel out of the county. Kate begins to worry that someone still may find out about Faye.
41Nation drifts toward war. Cal wants to make enough money farming to send Aron to college (he's embarrassed about still being called Lettuce-head) and to pay his father back what he lost. He goes to King City to ask Will's advice. Will becomes partners with Cal (who can get $5000 from Lee). They're going to contract beans at five cents a pound (two cents over market) and sell them to the British Purchasing Agency or the Quartermaster Corps for ten cents or more.
42The war comes to Salinas and beans are going for twelve and a half cents.
43Adam buys a gold watch to honor Aron's passing his exams, letting him get to college a year early. Aron doesn't tell his father but, instead, has dinner at Mr. Rolf's. Cal and Lee are furious with Aron, Adam is disappointed.
44With Aron at school Abra befriends the Trasks. She and Lee discuss Aron's inwardness. Cal shows up with Lee's loan plus interest. He suggests giving his father $15,000 at Thanksgiving, when Aron will be home.
45Joe's ethic. Kate decides to send Joe looking for Ethel. He goes to Castroville, Monterey, Watsonville and Santa Cruz where he learns Ethel was found dead on the beach, probably thrown off a sardine boat. He tells Kate he searched as far as San Luis and that Ethel seems to have returned to Salinas.
46Salinas in the war. John and Mary shout "Hoch der Kaiser" to Mr. Fenchel; the Home Guard burns his house. The "human meat and fluid" war and the homefolks' telegram side of it.
47Adam Trask is appointed to the draft board and labors over every decision. Lee and Adam re-discuss timshel. Aron leaves the dorm for a furnished room. He anticipates his Thanksgiving return to Abra.
48Late November, the Nigger died with no funeral. Alf Nichelson talks to Joe about Faye's death and Kate's relation to Adam. Joe tells Kate that Ethel's in Salinas. Kate asks Helen about the Nigger's funeral.
49Aron is met at the train by Abra, Adam, Lee and Cal. He walks Abra home from the Trask house. Aron tells Cal he doesn't like college. Cal wraps his present. He wants it to be his day, not Aron's, condemns his jealousy. Adam, Aron, Lee and Cal discuss specialization and college. Adam won't accept Cal's money, praises Aron's going to college. Cal takes Aron to show him something. Aron shows up at the San Jose recruiting station.
50Kate muses on Aron and Cal's visit. Joe has "news" of Ethel. Kate sends a note to the sheriff to check Joe's fingerprints. After recalling Alice in Wonderland, she makes a will leaving everything to Aron and takes a pill in her gray room. Joe finds her body. He takes the will, her photo collection, money and safe deposit keys. Deputy Noble asks him to come to the jail; he runs away and is killed by Noble.
51Sheriff Quinn burns the photos in front of a lawyer pictured in one of them. He goes to Adam's to tell him of Kate's suicide. Adam wants to tell Aron about the will and the $100,000 Quinn found in the back vault, but he isn't there. Cal doesn't know where his brother is. Lee reads the Marcus Aurelius he had stolen from Sam Hamilton. What Cal did after the night at Kate's. Lee philosophizes about Americans. Adam gets a card from Aron saying he's in the army. Adam seems to have had a stroke.
52Adam, having much trouble with his vision, wonders why Aron enlisted. Lee asks Cal to invite Abra but she shuns him. Cal finally meets Abra and tells her what he did to Aron. She says she's known about their mother since she was little. She loves Caleb. Abra's father appears to be ill from overwork. Judge Knudsen calls twice to see him.
53Adam tells Lee his father stole from G.A.R., then goes to the draft board. Abra arrives and she and Lee exchange affections. He gives her his mother's jade button. Cal walks her home. Heading home Tom Meek suggests he's stealing Aron's girl and doesn't believe Cal when he says he burned the $15,000.
54Lee amazes Drs. Murphy and Edwards with his knowledge of brain physiology. Adam gradually improves. Cal and Abra go to pick the very late blooming Alisal azaleas. While holding hands by the stream, Abra tells Cal her father has stolen money from his company. A telegram arrives at the Trask home.
55Aron is dead. Adam has had a stroke. A very pushy nurse arrives. Cal confesses to his father about causing Aron's death and Adam's stroke. When Cal goes to see Abra, Mrs. Bacon won't let him in. Abra escapes and catches up with Cal. At the foot of Adam's bed, Lee, Cal and Abra send the nurse out. Lee tells Adam his rejection of Cal was the cause of Aron's death. Lee urges him to forgive Cal. Adam manages to lift his hand and utter timshel.

Notes and Links
Pauline Pearson's notes on East of Eden
Movie: East of Eden (1955) with James Dean
James Dean website: East of Eden movie
East of Eden: Memorable moments in the film
TV miniseries: East of Eden (1982)
Salinas page by Lycos
SalinasNet service provider
Salinas Chamber of Commerce page
Amazon Books: East of Eden

Stephan Steinbeck