Most stories, even the good ones, have a life expectancy, a sort of “expiration date.” Born out of nothingness, they grow, inspire and shape until eventually becoming distant memories in the form of worn-out bindings in dark corners of old bookshelves.
There are some stories, however, fondly known as the great ones, that live on past their time. They are resurrected every few years, decades and centuries. They are labeled “classics” and become curriculums in classrooms, dissertations and topics of discourse, even societal trends. This is the story of East of Eden.
Written by Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck, East of Eden was published in Sept. 1952 and is often described as his most ambitious novel. Steinbeck himself considered it his magnum opus, stating, “It has everything in it I have been able to learn about my craft or profession in all these years. I think everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this.”
East of Eden is the tale of two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons, and their interwoven stories as they navigate through themes of love, betrayal, identity, greatness and each person’s innate inner battle between good and evil.
“I was initially drawn to reading East of Eden because of the title, which is referencing the book of Genesis in the bible,” said PLNU junior Samantha Bergstrom. “After reading it, I realized how much it parallels the story of Cain and Abel and the struggle that has existed from the beginning of time: good vs. evil.”
In the past several months, a number of PLNU students have taken an interest in reading East of Eden, whether it be for the first time or simply to read it again.
“I’ve definitely noticed that it is somewhat trending right now, especially at Point Loma and other colleges,” said senior Connor Berk. “Maybe that’s because of who Steinbeck is as a writer, but the fact that it is popular after so many years is a testament to what a universally applicable story it is.”
Maybe it is just a great book. Maybe Steinbeck is simply a master of storytelling. Maybe, in the philosophical and deeply introspective age that is our generation, East of Eden has risen from the ashes as yet another method for young people to examine themselves and the world around them in ways that maybe preceding generations couldn’t. Whatever the reason may be, almost 70 years later, John Steinbeck’s East of Eden seems to be taking college students by storm.