John Steinbeck’s ‘Journal of a Novel’ is a handy tool for any writer. In it, Steinbeck writes about his ambitions and fears for his ‘big book’. East of Eden is a big book, several generations of the type of characters who made America; the fine line between enterprise and empty ambition is explored through the ageless myth of two very different brothers.
I can’t help but look at life through the eyes of Cathy Ames, the wicked woman who divides and tortures the two brothers. John describes the creation of Cathy in his journal. He writes her as evil, he exclaims that she is a special type, but it seems to me that Cathy’s worst crime is not being easily understandable. That is the worst crime to Steinbeck. It is the worst thing. But it seems that even Steinbeck, the most humane of writers, can’t understand the scars that can be put upon a woman’s soul; the brothers and their children remain the victims until the end.
Joseph Campbell talks about the end of the goddess some 2000 years ago and the ramifications of that.
But we writers are standing on the shoulders of all of our heroes and Steinbeck is certainly one of mine.