of Satan, and the most evil character in the novel, Cathy, who will be named
Kate in the second half of the book, is a parasite who embodies
evil. As more
than one character points out, Cathy lacks some human quality.ï¿½ She murders her
parents by setting fire to their house and becomes the mistress of pimp Mr.
Edwards.ï¿½ She is rescued by Adam Trask when Edwards leaves her for dead.
birth to twin sons, Cal and Aron, she shoots Adam when he
attempts to stop
her from leaving.ï¿½ She takes a job as a prostitute and
brothel-owner Faye while taking over the business.ï¿½ She gives her
encourages sadomasochistic sexual practices and blackmails her customers.ï¿½ Late
in life she commits suicide after encountering her son Aron.
Abra Bacon meets
Aron as a child and falls in love with him until she realizes as an adult that
Aron has been in love with a dream girl. Daughter of a county
supervisor in Salinas, she learns her father is a thief.ï¿½ Her maturity and
contrast the evil Cathy. Lee, who loves her like a daughter, shares
with her the
knowledge that she doesn't have to follow in her father's
Mr. Edwards is a
businessman who runs a New England prostitution ring and leads a double life.
His deeply religious wife knows nothing of his business affairs.ï¿½ Mr. Edwards
falls in love with Cathy when she approaches him for a job. Soon, she had him
completely in her power. He leaves her for dead near the Trask farm after nearly
beating her to death.
Ethel is a
prostitute at Faye's brothel who digs up the empty bottles of poison used by
Kate to kill Faye. She attempts to blackmail Cathy but is later found dead by
Cotton Eye is
the brothel's piano player who is addicted to opium.ï¿½ Kate slyly tells Faye she
feels sorry for him to gain her sympathy and cast her in a positive light.
Faye is the
good-hearted madam of the Salinas whorehouse who comes to think of Kate (Cathy)
as her daughter and leaves the brothel to her in her will before Cathy poisons
is the happy go-lucky and most beloved daughter to Samuel and Liza. She opens a
dressmaking business in Salinas, and falls in love with the wrong man who
causes her deep distress she can share with no one. After she closes her
business, she moves back to the ranch where Tom inadvertently gives her a
medication that causes her death.
Liza Hamilton is
the wise mother of the nine Hamilton children and the tiny wife of Samuel.ï¿½
Strict and hard working with good sound sense, she acts as a counter-balance to
her dreamer of a husband. Unlike him, Lisa is pragmatic to a fault and abhors
drinking until, that is, the doctor prescribes port wine in her old age.
is the daughter of Samuel and Liza Hamilton who becomes a teacher and mother to
the narrator (and the mother of the author) John Steinbeck.ï¿½ As an example of a
loving mother, she contrasts the nefarious non-mother Cathy Ames.
Tom Hamilton is
the son of Samuel's heart.ï¿½ A poet who remains on the farm after his parents
grow old, he sinks into deep depression after his much-beloved father
dies. He accidentally causes the death of his sister Dessie by poison and
kills himself out of guilt.
Una Hamilton is
the deeply unhappy daughter of Samuel and Liza Hamilton.ï¿½ She marries a
photographer and moves to Oregon where he keeps her in great poverty. Her death
causes the beginning of Samuel's demise.
is the much-beloved and admired Hamilton family patriarch who acts as a mentor
for Adam Trask and stands in sharp contrast to Cyrus, the dishonest Trask
immigrant from Northern Ireland, he demonstrates the positive
life. Although he farms the most barren land in the Salinas
Valley, he is
enormously prolific, fathering nine children and enjoying life
to the fullest
until the death of his favorite daughter Una saddens him deeply
was indeed author John Steinbeck's grandfather who emigrated from Northern Ireland where he was self-educated from borrowed books.ï¿½ Although Samuel
experienced initial distrust from his new California neighbors because of his
Irish background, in time he wins their hearts with his goodness and hard work
as a blacksmith and pseudo-doctor. Although he never achieves wealth on his
poor farm, he is happy with his lot.ï¿½ His family never go hungry and have
everything they need. Reminiscent of a biblical patriarch, he fathers a
dynasty of nine children. Like many Irish, he tends to dream of the future,
always attempts to improve things, and, fearful of his wife's
whiskey on the sly.
Will Hamilton is the son of Samuel and Liza and the antithesis of his dreamer father.
Samuel. Practical to a fault, he was born to be a businessman. The first
to sell cars in the Salinas Valley, he becomes Cal Trask's business partner.
Lee is the
Chinese-American cook and housekeeper to Adam Trask's family.ï¿½ He speaks in a
Chinese pidgin dialect to "survive" life in America.ï¿½ He brings up Adam's children from the time they are abandoned by their mother. A
philosopher, he is a heartfelt friend to Samuel Hamilton and Adam Trask and
forms the third insightful part of their dialogs.ï¿½ He researches the Cain and
Abel story for years and brings to life the novel's central concept of
timshel "thou mayest."
Horace Quinn is
the sheriff who as a deputy covered up Kate's life as a prostitute to protect
Adam and the twins.ï¿½ Later in the novel, he informs Adam of Kate's death and
tells him that Aron is his mother's beneficiary of $100,000.
Aron Trask is
the fair-haired twin son of Adam and Cathy Trask and the twin brother of Cal.
Deeply religious and celibate, he plans to enter the ministry to
world.ï¿½ He is favored by Adam, much to Cal's chagrin, and is in love
Bacon.ï¿½ When he discovers his mother, who abandoned him as an
infant, is still
alive and living as a prostitute, he leaves Stanford and runs
away to join the
Army and dies soon after.
the early part of East of Eden, Adam Trask is a benevolent and
man who grows from a dreamy, misdirected youth into a
alive man who cares deeply about his sons, Cal and Aron.
The son of Cyrus
Trask, he falls in love with Cathy Ames when she wanders
helpless into his farm.ï¿½ Adam represents the biblical character
Abel who was
slain by his brother in a jealous rage. His blessing of his son
Cal at the end of the novel authenticates
timshel, the novel's central concept which mandates that humans are not
predestined to fail or to succeed but have free choice.
Alice Trask is
the passive mother of Charles Trask and caring step-mother to Adam Trask. She
rarely talks.ï¿½ She smiles, however, when no one sees her.
Adam leaves her
little gifts of love, but she wrongfully believes them to be
from her son,
Known as Cal, the dark-haired son of Adam and Cathy is jealous of his
perfect twin brother, Aron Trask. Cal represents the novel's second
indirectly killing his brother Aron (Abel) whom he forces to
enlist in the
Army. Ultimately, however, he demonstrates the novel's major
timshel, that people can overcome their background and choose free moral
acts out in anger against his half-brother after their father Cyrus favors
Adam's gift of a puppy over his gift of an expensive knife. He is
representative of the biblical Cain figure who kills his brother when God
favors the gift of Abel's lamb over his gift of grain.ï¿½ He has a dark brown
scar from an
remains on the family Connecticut farm as Adam wanders and
manages to amass
a fortune of $100,000 that he leaves to Adam and Cathy.
Cyrus Trask is
the family patriarch who commits the "original sin" that determines
the action of the novel.ï¿½ The cruel father of the brothers Adam and Charles, he
lies about his record as a Civil War hero and gains an important
job in Washington D.C. which allows him to leave an ill-gained
$100,000 to his sons.
Mrs. Trask is
the deeply religious mother of Adam Trask who commits suicide soon after her
husband Cyrus Trask returns home from the Civil War and infects her with
Joe Valery is an
ex-convict bodyguard and bouncer who attempts to control Kate who is fearful
her murder of Faye will be discovered. As her arthritic pain increases, Kate
comes to rely more and more on him and when she realizes that he is extorting
money from her, she commits suicide, but not before turning him into the