Study Guide

East of Eden Contrasting Regions—East vs. West

By John Steinbeck

Contrasting Regions—East vs. West

If you're going to title your book East of Eden, you're implying that there's a West, too. This novel loves to work the East-West thing: Back East (Connecticut) versus the Wild Wild West (California), East as in Lee's Orient versus West as in Samuel's Irish-Americanism, and of course "east of Eden" as in where the biblical Cain is banished to after killing Abel. But direction is a little complicated: Adam goes west to find his Eden, while Lee figuratively goes east when his Chinese parents come to America. It's enough to make your head—and compass—spin around a bit.

Questions About Contrasting Regions—East vs. West

  1. What are the connotations of East and West outside of East of Eden? How does East of Eden switch up or reinforce those connotations?
  2. Why do you think Steinbeck starts out the story's action on the East Coast?
  3. How does Lee's self-described Orientalism lend itself to some of the other themes of the story?
  4. Aside from it being a biblical reference, why do you think Steinbeck chose to emphasize east in his title?

Chew on This

In the novel, East and West are fluid categories.

There are many Easts in the novel.