Study Guide

East of Eden Jealousy

By John Steinbeck


We've got all the ingredients for a delicious jealousy pie in East of Eden, which makes sense since it's based on of the original master recipes for jealousy—the story of Cain hating Abel for getting God this amazing steak while Cain's gardening skills go completely unnoticed. That's the kind of jealousy that leaves a mark (literally, on Cain's face), but in addition to polar opposite siblings, we've also got a generous dash of fatherly favoritism in the mix, too. Stir it all together and let it rise for a couple of generations, and you've got yourself one hot jealous mess.

Questions About Jealousy

  1. What are some of the things the biblical Cain and Abel story tells us about the nature of jealousy? How can we apply some of these things to what happens in the novel?
  2. Who do you think is the cause of jealousy in the novel: the God/father figures, or the siblings?
  3. Are siblings the only ones who feel jealousy in the novel? What might this say about the people we tend to be jealous of?
  4. Why do you think jealousy is at the core of one of the first stories of Genesis, and why does Steinbeck take this idea and run with it? Why is jealousy so central to being human?

Chew on This

In the novel, jealousy makes characters seem more evil.

In the novel, jealousy makes characters seem more sympathetic.