Study Guide

East of Eden Family

By John Steinbeck


When you talk about keeping it all in the family, usually you aren't talking about family curses. And while lots of people have a love-hate relationship with their family, most of us don't feel compelled to kill our brother over our father's love. So East of Eden is kind of extreme. In addition to having all that baggage, the second generation of Trasks also get to deal with the fear that they have inherited something more than arthritis from their parents: Cal is worried that he's evil like Kate, and Aron remarks at one point that he looks like Charles. And you thought your family was bad.

Questions About Family

  1. Why do you think Steinbeck decided to make East of Eden about two families instead of just one?
  2. In the novel, what kinds of traits do characters inherit from their parents? What do they get to decide for themselves?
  3. Which of the characters love their parents? Which ones hate their parents? What about vice versa?
  4. How are the Hamiltons different from the Trasks?

Chew on This

In East of Eden, children are replicas of their parents.

In East of Eden, family ties are inescapable.