East of Eden is a novel by American author John Steinbeck. The story is set in the Salinas Valley, California, during the years between World War I and World War II, and describes a rivalry between two families: the Trasks and the Hamiltons. The novel was originally published in 1952 and has been adapted for film twice, in 1955 and again in an episode of the television series East of Eden (1981).
Both families are struggling to make ends meet and want better lives for themselves. The Hamiltons’ dream is to own their own land and farm crops on it; Cal wants to become an inventor or scientist; Aron wants to become a doctor; Caleb wants to become an actor; Abra wants to marry Charles; Adam works hard as a farmer but dreams of becoming rich someday.
The story traces the lives of these characters through several decades as they experience joys, sorrows, successes and failures along with love, hatred and redemption.
The novel explores the themes of family, love, betrayal and redemption. It was written in response to Hemingway’s comments that Steinbeck’s previous novel, The Grapes of Wrath (1939), was “not a great book.”
The book was a bestseller but received mixed reviews from critics who thought it too long and melodramatic.