Corrupt Cathy: Evilness in East of Eden

February 15, 2021 by Essay Writer

In East of Eden, John Steinbeck explores how the personality trait of evilness affects an individual. He shows this through Cathy Ames’ resulting lack of humanity and lack maternal instinct.

Initially, Cathy’s malice leads to her lack of motherly care, preventing her to love her children. Those close to Cathy often portray and perceive her as a beautiful and delicate woman. However, the narrator expresses the monstrous and evil side Cathy often hides, through her behavior at a dinner with Samuel Hamilton and Adam Trask: “Cathy was chewing a piece of meat, chewing with her front teeth. […] And when she had swallowed, her little tongue flicked around her lips” (Steinbeck 173). Cathy exhibits evilness due to the metaphor comparing Cathy and a snake, when it is stated that “her little tongue flicked around her lips.” A snake is often represented as a symbol of evil in Catholic religion. In Genesis, the snake represents Satan, the personification of evil. The snake commits multiple acts of immorality such as leading Adam and Eve towards a path of sin. Cathy exhibits similar behaviors to a villainous snake when “her little tongue flick[s] around her lips” symbolizing that she is a wicked character. As a result of this profound immorality, Cathy has no love for her children. Cathy Ames is pregnant with two twins, Aaron and Caleb Trask, in Salinas with her husband Adam. The narrator expresses that Cathy has no sense of maternal instinct through the description of her physical body as she undergoes pregnancy: “Her breasts did not grow and her nipples did not darken. There was no quickening of milk glands, no physical planning to feed the newborn” (Steinbeck 184). When it is stated that “[She had] no planning to feed the newborn,” Cathy demonstrates that she lacks a sense of maternal love. The narrator allows the reader to infer that Cathy has no intention of caring for her kids, showing her lack of care for the newborn. Cathy Ames’ body unconsciously rejects her motherhood when it is stated that “her nipples did not darken” or that “her breasts did not grow.” Cathy rejects her children mentally, when she explains that she has no intention to nurture them. Cathy Ames expresses is speaking to Adam Trask, her husband, telling him that she has no intention to care for her children: “I didn’t want to come here. I am not going to stay here. As soon as I can I will go away” (Steinbeck 175). Cathy has absolutely no love for her children, as it is stated that “[She was] not going to stay [there].” This shows that Cathy has no feeling of maternal affection and care for her children. “As soon as [she]” gave birth, she would leave the twins motherless and forget that they had ever existed. Cathy lacks a sense of motherly love through her immorality and evilness, leading her to lack compassion towards her children.

Later, Cathy’s wickedness leads to her lack of humanity, preventing her to have any sympathetic feelings for others. Cathy Ames, after leaving her children, goes to a prostitution house and begins working there. Cathy keeps photographs of powerful men in the Salinas community at the prostitution house, as blackmail, which grants her protection. However, Cathy expresses her evilness to Adam, as she would deliver these pictures to harmful places, resulting in the destruction of the men’s lives: “Those men know that if anything should happen to me […] one hundred letters, each one with a picture, would be dropped in the mail and each letter will go where it will do the most harm. […] In a few years I’ll be going away. And when I do — those envelopes will be dropped in the mail anyway” (Steinbeck 323). Cathy exhibits evilness when it is stated that she would send the letters to “where it [would] the most harm.” These letters would destroy the lives of the men and Cathy would deliberately send them to “the most harm[ful]” places, such as their families or their work environment. The men’s lives would be ruined and the reputation of all those around them would be tainted. Cathy is not only holding these “letters” for protection; she also keeps them, as a result of her evilness. Cathy confesses to Adam that she would “[drop the letters] in the mail anyway,” which demonstrates that Cathy is not only holding the “letters” for protection, she does it as a result of her evilness. She would destroy the lives of others, without a cause or reason which shows the profound immorality. As a result of this wickedness, Cathy has no compassion or care for others. Adam Trask confronts Cathy Ames, at the brothel, discussing the theme of good and evil. Cathy Ames, under the influence of alcohol, loses part of her humanity and fights with her husband, Adam. The narrator expresses that Cathy has no sense of humanity, in the debate between them: “Uncontrolled hatred shone in Kate’s eyes. She screamed, a long and shrill animal screech” (Steinbeck 325). Cathy demonstrates that she lacks a sense of humanity when it is stated that “[Cathy] screamed, a long animal screech”. She “screech[es]” like a savage “animal” and exhibits animal-like behavior, instead of acting humanely. She also does not feel any pity towards Adam, just pure and “uncontrolled hate” towards another human, which shows that she does not feel the humane characteristics of empathy. Cathy Ames screams, during the argument, which alerts the house pimp, Ralph, who punches Adam in the face to neutralize him. Cathy, however, expresses her lack of humanity through her orders directed towards Ralph: “‘I said give him the boots. Break his face!” (Steinbeck 325). Cathy has absolutely no sympathy for Adam, as it is stated that “[Cathy wanted Ralph to] break his face.” This shows that Cathy has no feelings of pity for others’ suffering. She tells Ralph to continuously hurt Adam, even though he had done nothing to harm her in any manner. Cathy lacks a sense of humanity through her immorality and evilness, leading her to have no empathy towards others.

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