Book of the Month: “East of Eden”

March 4, 2009 at 10:57 pm 2 comments

“It is probable that if [Charles] had found [Adam] that night he would have killed him, or tried to. The direction of a big act will warp history, but probably all acts to the same in their degree, down to a stone stepped over in the path or a breath caught at the sight of a pretty girl or a fingernail nicked in the garden soil.”

-John Steinbeck, East of Eden

The Simpsons Halloween Special from several years ago explores the repercussions of time travel when Homer serendipitously discovers that his broken toaster can take him back into the Paleolithic era. During his first visit, he slaps and kills a mosquito as it lands on the back of his neck. When he returns home, his family and Earth as he knows it has dramatically changed. After a series of trips to the period of the dinosaurs, he finds that the modern world around him alarmingly alters in very different ways whether he slays a pterodactyl and tyrannosaurus rex or if he merely steps on a twig and breaks it. Knowing that his presence and seemingly insignificant interactions during time travel will inevitably affect the future, he settles for a life that most closely resembles his pre-toaster adventures, save for his family members’ use of amphibious tongues at the dinner table.

This pop cultural example demonstrates the irreversible impact events of the past have on the present and future. Whether major or insignificant, incidents prompt a domino effect without particular rhyme, reason, consistency, or predictability. In East of Eden, Steinbeck reflects upon mundane events as much as he does on formative moments in a character’s life. That the reader is rarely bored by Steinbeck’s expository passages is evidence of his talent as a writer.

Entry filed under: Pop Culture. Tags: , , , .

Oscar Moments and Quotes Leprechaun Logic

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. The Mother  |  March 7, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    We are all separated by much fewer than six degrees.

    Your entry reminds me of a great movie quote from Vanilla Sky. Tom Cruise’s character David, says, “The little things . . . there’s nothing bigger, is there?”
    Yeah, it’s all connected. Time travel and the elusive past, happiness, forgiveness . . . which reminds me of another great movie quote. The narrator at the beginning of Magnolia claims, “. . . There are stories of coincidence and chance, of intersections and strange things told, and which is which and who only knows? . . . . Someone’s so-and-so met someone else’s so-and-so and so on. And it is in the humble opinion of this narrator that strange things happen all the time. And so it goes, and so it goes. And the book says, ‘We may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.’ ”

    Damn!

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  • 2. lollygabber  |  March 9, 2009 at 1:20 am

    And, of course, Tom Cruise is in Magnolia as well. Perhaps that’s why you included that quote, but I have a feeling it just further solidifies the point we’re trying to make.

    To go off on a tangent, I am really disturbed by the fact that Tom Cruise is such a great actor; yet his acting abilities get overshadowed by negative publicity about his religious beliefs and familial interactions. What a shame! I’ll see anything he’s in – unless it’s science fiction (and even some of those are ok).

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