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My Pilgrimage, Chapter Thirty: East of Eden By John Steinbeck

By Michael Moriarty
web posted October 2, 2017

These thoughts, of course, are as much about John Steinbeck’s novel as about the extraordinary film that Elia Kazan made out of Steinbeck’s magnificent portrait of America as a Biblical nation.

Steinbeck himself has said that all his other work as a writer was merely practice and a preparation for what is now acknowledged as the author’s Magnum Opus.

…and it came to pass,
when they were in the field,
 that Cain rose up against Abel his brother,
and slew him.”
Genesis 4:8

To say, in the Kazan film, not in Steinbeck’s novel, that both Adam Trask the father and his “entirely good” son, Aron, his “Abel”, are not, and cannot be a sustainable reality?!

The film, East of Eden,
 doesn’t merely say that.
It imprints that message
Irrevocably upon our memories.

The novel portrays the mother of the two young men as just, plain, downright Evil.

Elia Kazan turns the novel entirely in the other direction.

Instead of an unquestionably Diabolical mother who, in the novel, eventually commits suicide because of her guilt over the sadistic hell she’s raised, we must conclude from Kazan’s film, and are led, in the end, to believe that both the “righteous” father Adam and his “good son” Aron are trapped in a tragic self-delusion.

Kazan, at least from my 10 to 15 viewings of the film – I can’t really remember exactly how many times I’ve seen it – is determined to portray the father’s “Biblical righteousness” as a house of cards.

Given the shock of meeting a mother he’d been told was dead?!

The “Good Brother” is thrown literally into the lap of his mother – not as the sadist she is in the novel – but as the very practical and very successful whore house Madam she is in the film!

Once the “bad” son, Cal, forces his brother to meet the reality of their mother, the “good” brother falls apart. He begins to immediately self-destruct and obviously intends to finish the job by entering into World War I, much against the pacifist consciences of both himself and his father.

Sons of Eden
The Sons of Eden

In the novel, the “Good Son” is killed during the war.

However, in the film, we barely go past the moment when the “Good Brother”, destroyed by his seemingly “Bad Brother”, sends him off to enlist.

With Aron’s frightening departure on a train for the war?!

He crashes his head right through the train compartment’s glass window!

East of Eden
The Film’s Most Unforgettable Moment

The above photo is certainly the most horrifyingly memorable event in East of Eden.

The novel, not the film, confirms Aron’s eventual death in World War I.

Given the shock of meeting a mother he’d been told was dead?!

Aron is thrown, by his brother Cal, literally into his mother’s arms, into the lap of a whore house Madam!

Richard Davolos’ portrayal of Aron Trask is, rather like Julie Harris’ absolute perfection as Abra Bacon, painfully overlooked because of all the drama surrounding the debut of James Dean and the eternally ongoing publicity of Dean’s own tragically early death.

“So Cain
went out
from the presence of the Lord
and dwelt
in the Land of Nod,
east of Eden.”
Genesis 4/16

It must, however, have been one of Elia Kazan’s intentions, as both an artist and a citizen of the United States, to show the inner infernos that are always, at least in his unquestionably Marxist mentality, created by the supposedly All-Holy Righteous Hypocrites of a Capitalist America.

The very American Billy Graham-types and their impact through history, both Biblical and historical, must be labeled as insanely naïve and unrealistic.

East of Eden does just that.

Elia Kazan was, certainly during his years with the profoundly Marxist and Soviet-Loving Group Theater, a bitter critic of not only Capitalist America but the Evangelistic American citizens as well.

Regardless of how Kazan bent the Steinbeck novel into a Marxist Treatise on American Spiritual Hypocrisy?!

Kazan’s East of Eden is a great film.


I believe, without question, that the film’s power has as much to do with the increasingly self-evident but thrilling war between Steinbeck’s novel and Kazan’s unquestionably Marxist message.

East of Eden is the fruit of inevitably eternal combat between the Bible and a German intellectual’s hellishly twisted and lethally sincere intentions. The megalomania of Adolf Hitler and Karl Marx are really not all that different from one another.

Insanity’s National Socialism.

America’s “pursuit of happiness” versus Communism’s “lust for vengeance”!

Vengeance is God’s!

Not the plaything of Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and Kim Jong-un.ESR

Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor who starred in the landmark television series Law and Order from 1990 to 1994. His recent film and TV credits include The Yellow Wallpaper, 12 Hours to Live, Santa Baby and Deadly Skies. Contact Michael at rainbowfamily2008@yahoo.com. He can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/@MGMoriarty.





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