Good And Evil In John Steinbeck's East Of Eden

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“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). John Steinbeck’s work, East of Eden, is the one he considered to be his greatest, with all novels before leading up to it. Indeed, it grandly recounts the stories of the human race as told by the Bible, including Adam and Eve, but most prominently that of Cain and Abel. It touches upon both Steinbeck’s own family and a fictional family in a depiction of “man 's capacity for both good and evil” (Fontenrose). Joseph Fontenrose, however, criticizes Steinbeck’s message as contradictory and convoluted, with no clear relationship between good and evil. In the novel East of Eden, contrary to Fontenrose’s criticism, Steinbeck portrays the relationship between good and evil as an inherent part of the human condition, shown through his characters as they struggle with their choices and ultimate path, providing an understanding of humanity within the biblical struggle generation after generation must face.
Steinbeck delineates good and evil as attributes present in everyone, existing from birth, and asserts that both are resolute and immutable in their existence. “Humans are caught… in a net of good and evil,” (Steinbeck 413). From the moment Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, humans were doomed to have both good and evil inside of them, without any ability to truly overcome the evil. Though Fontenrose supplies valid points in that Steinbeck uses the

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