The Chinese-American character Lee is a philosopher who first brings the novel's central theme to light for Samuel Hamilton and Adam Trask. Discuss Lee's role in the novel. What are his contributions?
The novel opens with a vision of California's Salinas Valley. How does Steinbeck use landscape to illustrate the novel's major themes?
Cyrus Trask and Samuel Hamilton portray archtypcal, albeit very different, father-figures. Discuss fatherhood in East of Eden, illustrating the importance of each type of father-figure.
The Trask Family and the Hamilton Family make up most of the characters in the novel. Discuss the intrinsic nature of each family and how their differing dynamics affect the outcome of the novel.
Cathy Ames has been criticized by scholars as "unbelievable" because she is wholly evil. Do you agree, or disagree? What is Cathy's significance in the novel?
The biblical story of Cain and Abel plays a crucial role in the novel. Discuss the intergenerational significance of this story.
The concept of timshel ("thou mayest") is central to the novel. Discuss this idea and its pertinence to the novel.
Although he is not the protagonist, Samuel Hamilton deeply influences the events that take place in the novel. What is his significance in East of Eden?
Steinbeck's female characters have been criticized by scholars as being "unreal": far too good, or far too evil. Select four female characters and argue for or against this point.
Discuss the similarities and differences between the two sets of brothers (Charles and Adam, and Cal and Aron), paying particular attention to the end of the novel.