1. Although Steinbeck portrays Cathy as a near-inhuman creature of seemingly inherent evil, the idea of timshel implies that she has the power to choose her own path. Is Cathy born a moral monster, or does she become one of her own accord? What elements of Cathy’s character or episodes from the novel lead you to your conclusion?
2. What symbolic values do characters’ names hold in East of Eden? Discuss specifically the role of biblical names and the importance of the letters A and C.
3. What role do the Hamiltons play in the novel, given that the Steinbeck explores most of his moral concerns through his portrayal of the Trask family? What is the significance of the fact that the narrator is descended from the Hamiltons?
4. Is there any difference between the narrator of East of Eden and Steinbeck himself, or is the narrative voice essentially Steinbeck’s own? How does this affect your reading of the novel?
5. There are several secondary echoes of the Cain and Abel story apart from the obvious parallels with Charles and Adam, Cal and Aron. What are some of these echoes, and what is their role in the novel? (Think about, for example, Dessie Hamilton’s death and Abra’s reaction to her father’s corruption.)