Kingwood College Library
Assignment Guide for

East of Eden byJohn Steinbeck  1902 - 1968

Published in 1952, East of Eden was according to  Steinbeck a "story of his country and the story of himself."

Steinbeck was brought up in and around Salinas, California, the second setting of the novel.  His life experiences there are portrayed throughout this novel.  A second strong influence on the novel is his Christian idealism learned through study of the Bible.  Other themes in the novel are listed below.


Basic information on East of Eden:

Time:            From the Civil War to World War I

Settings:       Connecticut and Salinas Valley California

Characters:  Cyrus Trask, patriarch of the Trask family in Connecticut
                    Alice Trask, Cyrus' second wife, step mother to Adam, mother of Charles
                    Adam Trask, the oldest son of Cyrus and father of Caleb and Aron.
                    Charles Trask, second son of Cyrus
                    Samuel Hamilton, originally from Ireland, patriarch of the Hamilton family in California
                    Liza, Sam's wife, mother to nine children
                    Olive Hamilton, mother of John Steinbeck
                    Cathy Ames, a young woman who becomes Adam Trask's wife
                    Lee, Adam Trask's cook and servant in California
                    Caleb Trask, twin son of Adam Trask, brother to Aron
                    Aron Trask, second twin son of Adam Trask
                    Abra Bacon, friend of Cal and Aron Trask

Themes:       Cain and Abel
                     Good and evil
                     The Hebrew concept of timshel
                     Salinas Valley history
                     A father's blessing on his child
                     People on the fringes of society
                     Turn of the century America
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BOOKS containing information on John Steinbeck and East of Eden can be found by using the Kingwood College Library catalog.  Link to the catalog from the Library website at  Use the title or author's name as a subject keyword search to find books about the novel and the author.  Some of the Reference books which discuss East of Eden are:

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DATABASESare useful to find journal articles which analyze literature.  Some of the Kingwood College Library databases most useful for examining East of Eden and Steinbeck are listed below.  Click on the link to go into the database from computers on campus, or use the Home Access to Database link from the Kingwood College Library web page and use your library barcode to login.

Literature Resource Center    Full text articles from reference books and Twayne's Masterworks books.  Journal articles, some full text and some excerpted.  Use your library barcode to login from off campus.

MLA  The most authoritative index to scholarly journals in the area of literature.  This index is used with microfiche which are located in the college library.  No full text articles appear in this database.  If you need help, please ask the reference librarian on duty.

PA Research II/Proquest  This multi subject index contains some articles on East of Eden and Steinbeck.  Limit searches to Peer Reviewed journals to obtain scholarly articles.  Search both Current publications and the back file. Use your library barcode to login from off campus.

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INTERNETsites can be helpful for research.  Students should be aware that not all sites are academically suitable for the type of research colleges require.  Look at the site and judge it for quality (is it well written?), validity (are facts and statements correct?), currency (is it up to date?), authority (who wrote or created the web page?), and general acceptability.   If you are in doubt, check with your instructor.  Some sites which may be helpful to your research are linked below.

The California novels East of Eden This site was created by Ed Stephan, Ph.D. Sociology at Western Washington University.  Dr. Stephan is interested in the relationship of territory to society.  This web page and the related pages were created after visiting California's Steinbeck country.

The National Steinbeck Center  This web page about East of Eden is one of the pages linked to the National Steinbeck Center.  The center is located in Salinas, California, the heart of "Steinbeck country."

Steinbeck Country  A site created by the San Jose State Center for Steinbeck Studies, part of San Jose State University,  which describes and shows pictures of many of the places Steinbeck uses as settings in his novels.

For further research try these search engines:  Metacrawler || Google || AltaVista  .  More search engines can be found at the Kingwood College Library web page.

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MLA citation style guide  for your works cited page.  Helpful examples of citations from many types of resources.

The Learning Center , formerly Academic Support Center. Check the hours of the Learning Center for help with your paper or in-house tutoring.  Remember, your instructor is the final authority on the content and form of your paper.

Page created by , 3-19-02 || Return to Kingwood College Library || Updated 11/6/02.