East of Eden

Steinbeck’s Strong Female Characterization: An Asset of East of Eden 12th Grade

John Steinbeck’s East of Eden was published in the 1950’s, a time when having a large family was a virtue and a source of comfort. Given the devastating psychological effects of World Wars I and II and the growing fear of the Cold War, people sought out a sense of calmness. This desire for comfort led to an increase in conventional lifestyles and conventional gender roles. Thus, women were defined as mother or wife in society, lacking identity and independence. Steinbeck, however, has opposed this occupation of a traditionalist conception of femininity through his characterization of strong-willed women: Cathy Ames, Liza Hamilton, and Abra Bacon. These three important characters challenge the societal expectations of the submissive woman, all possessing an inner-strength. Furthermore, these three women play pivotal roles in the text. Steinbeck has successfully criticized the stereotypical view of the traditional woman typical of male mid-twentieth century authors, through his illumination of strong female characters.

Cathy Ames uses her sexuality and inner-strength to manipulate others and acquire power over man, ultimately gaining an independence in which challenges traditional female roles. From causing her Latin teacher to...

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