Study Guide

East of Eden Memory and the Past

By John Steinbeck

Memory and the Past

Remember the good old days when a stick of gum was a nickel and every single thing was better? Or remember back in our day when you had to walk ten miles to school in the snow uphill both ways? Nostalgia and contrasting the past with the present is a huge part of East of Eden. It's not just something you do while sitting out on your front porch in a rocking chair—it affects how people act, how they think about themselves, and how they think about other people. The past colors peoples's opinions of the present, so how they choose to remember it is a pretty big deal.

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. How does the idea of the past in East of Eden relate to the whole Genesis thing the novel has going on?
  2. Are there different kinds of pasts in the novel, like the Beginning of Time past versus the past century? 
  3. What are some moments in the novel where the past has a strong bearing on the present?
  4. In the novel, how does the notion of a family history fit into the idea of the past as a general idea?

Chew on This

The characters in East of Eden do not learn from the past.

The past holds the characters of East of Eden captive.