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Free Study Guide-East of Eden by John Steinbeck-Free Booknotes Summary
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Aaron "Aron" Trask

Aaron is named after the Biblical character who did not get to the Promised Land. Just like the Biblical character, Aaron Trask dies before his time, killed during World War I. Aaron is also similar to the Biblical character of Abel. He is the fair-haired, good son who always tries to please his father. As a result, he is his fatherís favorite, just like Abel. The favoritism causes Cal to hate Aaron through much of the novel, just like Cain hated Abel.

Although Cal does not literally kill Aaron, he indirectly causes his death. When his father rejects his sacrificial offering of $15,000 and suggests that Cal become more like Aaron, Cal retaliates by taking his brother to meet their mother. Aaron is horrified to learn the truth. In order not to face it, he escapes by joining the military and going to war. When Aaron is killed, Cal blames himself.

Throughout the novel, Aaron is the handsome son, loved immediately by everyone who sees him. In the first part of his life, he represents the unaffected, natural goodness of mankind. By the end of the novel, he is so caught up in his image of goodness that he represents self-indulgent purity. He has joined the Episcopal Church, taken his minister, Mr. Rolfe, as his mentor, decided to become a pastor of a high church, and pledged to remain celibate.


His relationship with Abra reveals the direction of Aaronís moral life. He has adopted the element of Adamís character that opened him to the machinations of Cathy and made him blind to the needs of his sons. As Abra puts it, Aaron has created an idealized story for himself and refuses to leave it in order to embrace the realities of life. She feels that he has never grown up, for he constantly twists the world to fit his ideal image. In his relationship with her, he has put her on an unrealistic pedestal, making her a vision of perfect purity. When he writes love letters to her from college, he is obviously speaking to his ideal of Abra rather than the real girl who loves him. When college does not turn out to be the ideal place he had imagined it would be, Aaron immediately wants to give it up and retreat to the idealized life of a farmer. Finally, Adam is incapable of accepting the reality of his mother. Although he has heard rumors about her all his life, he has willfully denied them, consistently holding to the belief that she had died and gone to heaven. When he comes face to face with his mother, he still refuses to accept reality. He runs to war and gets himself killed, never reaching the Promised Land, just as his namesake never reached the Promised Land in the Bible.

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