Main Desire Of Cal in East of Eden Novel
The human desire to seek enlightenment and purpose in life permeates and intensifies the allure of literature. Throughout time, novels have continually supported the aphorism that hardships build character and strengthen one’s sense of personal identity. In John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Cal searches for liberation from the evil permeating his life. Throughout his childhood, Cal receives gratification from manipulating his brother, Aron. However, as he grows older, Cal realizes the darkness of his deeds, and he attempts to redeem himself by mirroring Aron’s goodness. As Cal struggles to find himself during his adolescence, he also seeks for freedom from the evil that he believes he has inherited from his mother, Cathy. After years of developing his own personality, Cal ultimately succeeds in distancing himself from Cathy. Consequently, Cal’s life exemplifies the concept of “timshel,” the idea that free will can release an individual from the erroneous path of previous generations.
As a child, Cal experiences a disturbing thrill from evoking pain and confusion in his brother. Simultaneously, Cal is frightened by the dark intent of his actions, and he attempts to remedy his personality. Throughout much of his early life, Cal struggles with these contrasting aspects of his personality: the protective, caring brother and the violent, hurtful sibling. Once he attends school, his flaws become starkly evident, and he quickly becomes feared as the “playground bully.” However, Cal fervently denounces this reputation, praying, “Lord, let me be like Aron. Don’t make me mean. I don’t want to be.” As Cal struggles to find himself, he endeavors to improve his personality and reject evil.
Ironically, Cal’s greatest obstacle in his quest for morality is himself. Cal believes that he is innately immoral and that he maintains no control over his “darkness.” His violent temper possesses him, leading him to make mistakes that he later regrets. Cal fears that he inherited this evil from his mother, Cathy, stating, “I hate her because I know why she went away. I know- because I’ve got her in me.” Upon listening to Cal’s concerns, Lee wisely convinces him that he possesses the ability to choose between good and evil by being conscious of his actions and following his conscience.
Cal ultimately succeeds in discovering his identity when he relinquishes the notion that he can inherit evil from his biological mother, Cathy. After he learns that she operates a brothel in town, he stalks her and familiarizes himself with her routine. Meanwhile, Cal internally despairs that he is destined to be like her. Cathy finally confronts Cal and tries to convince him that they possess similar attributes. At this pivotal moment, Cal denounces her, realizing that he is not innately evil after all. He has the power to become a different person and to make his own choices in order to avoid the mistakes of his parents.
By yelling “timshel” with his final breath on his deathbed, Cal’s father, Adam Trask summarizes and foreshadows Cal’s ultimate success in freeing himself from the mistakes of his ancestors and developing his own identity. In retrospect, Cal’s familial problems and his inner turmoil only served to strengthen his character. Because he was juxtaposed with Aron, his angelic brother and because he struggled to tame his temper during his early years, Cal believed he was evil. However, Lee and others who truly knew Cal understood that his actions and emotions resulted from the jealousy, pain, and self-pity that constantly tormented him. Beneath the impulsive, cynical Cal existed a generous, loving individual, the person that Cal eventually grew to discover and cherish.
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