the novel opens with a vision of california's salinas valley. what does the landscape illustrate? find specific examples from the text to support your opinion.
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John Steinbeck, who casts himself as the young narrator, carefully creates the near-mythical setting in which the characters of East of Eden reside. His setting, however, does far more than merely serve as the backdrop for the action. Indeed, the setting creates thematic tension and opposition. Steinbeck sets up the biblical metaphor of good versus evil (or light versus dark) - the novel's central theme - by utilizing Salinas Valley, California, where he lived as a youngster, as the novel's primary setting. "Evil", or darkness, is represented by the Santa Lucias Mountains, which lie to the West, while "good", or light, is represented by the Gabilan Mountains, to the East. It is here, between these two mountain ranges, that the Hamilton and Trask families settle. Although the eleven-member Hamilton family is certainly fertile, they are forced to live on the most barren land in the Valley, while the dysfunctional, almost infertile Trask family lives on the Valley's richest land. This discrepancy is a physical manifestation of the fact that the strong immigrants, Samuel and Liza Hamilton, are forced to eke out a living on next to nothing, while the rich but weak Trasks, who inherited their wealth through dishonest means, seem to be sliding into degeneracy. Both the Hamiltons and the Trasks are led by heavily bearded men (Samuel and Cyrus, respectively), but the men are very different types of patriarchs: Samuel is the loving, healthy, "good" father, while Cyrus is the hateful, diseased, "bad" father. The kindly Samuel provides Adam with a positive paternal role model, but the "sins" of Adam's biological father nevertheless wreak havoc upon him and his brother, Charles.