“I don’t think I’m half as mean as you under that nice skin. I think you’re a devil” (Steinbeck 117). Charles Trask could not have described Cathy Ames any better. In John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Charles Trask, the brother of Adam Trask, becomes increasingly jealous of Adam and nearly kills Adam. Adam and Cathy Ames birth Aaron (Aron) and Caleb (Cal) Trask. Cathy leaves the family to pursue life as a prostitute. Cal has always been jealous of Aron the favorite, and essentially drives Aron to death in the military. Adam is left devastated, and Cal feels terrible, but then embraces the idea of “the Hebrew word, the word timshel- ‘Thou mayest’- â€¦ says the way is open” (Steinbeck 303). Steinbeck also brings many ideas from Genesis into his book, mainly the story of Cain and Abel. Cathy Ames plays a large role in this story as a character that causes many evils and harms to every character she encounters. In John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Cathy Ames is a manipulative, destructive, and selfish entity.
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Cathy Ames is a destructive figure and this is clear as early as her childhood and adolescence. She desecrated everything around her; family, community, home, and even herself. She is innately evil. Coming from a respectable family, one might expect her to also be respectable and maybe even successful; however, she resulted to be the complete opposite. Her evil began as early as the age of ten, where she engaged in sexual activity with two town boys and allowed them to be punished while she took no blame. In reality, she lured the boys in and set the scene to where she was innocent. In high school, she caused her teacher James Grew to commit suicide. It is unknown what exactly she did, but her destructive attitude implies that she was the cause. Upon the age of sixteen, Cathy burned down her own home with the goal to murder her parents. She succeeded. “Cathy is as close to pure evil as one is likely to get to,” (Aubrey).
Because of her manipulative nature, Cathy knows how to control the people around her. “She is consistently evil in her thoughts and actions, manipulating others for her own ends without a trace of conscience,” (Smith). From a young age she was always turning heads, keeping people curious and wanting to know about her. She used this to her advantage, to the point where she used people. Her whoremaster Edwards fell in love with her. However, she abused him to the point where he beat her and left her to die (Boyd). From this point, she continued her manipulativeness after being welcomed into the Trasks’ home. Adam fell in love with her, and her solely being herself allowed him to fall head over heels, while she remained unaffected. She used Adam to heal herself from her wounds, to get living healthy, and then in the end, she left Adam to pursue her life as a prostitute. When her son, Aron, finds out what it is his mother does, he goes off into the Army of which he never wanted to do before. He dies in the Army, ultimately because of Cathy. She didn’t even have to try; her manipulate ways came naturally and affected her own son in the worst way possible. She is a “nonconformist and a liar” (Aubrey).
Feeding off her selfishness, Cathy proceeds to always get what she wants no matter how it affects the people around her. While married to Adam, Cathy sleeps with Adam’s brother Charles. This is a prime example of her selfishness. She does not even tell Adam. When pregnant with the twins Aron and Cal, Cathy tries performing an abortion. The abortion failed, but even the thought of trying to kill a child of God is a key example in showing just how selfish Cathy can be. Her selfishness is again shown when she leaves Adam to live her own whore-enriched life. Although Adam has provided her with everything she should need, she chooses to not only leave him, but also to shoot him before she is gone. Continuing her selfish ways, she chooses to take no part in her children’s lives as they grow up.
The evil impurity of Cathy Ames allows her to relate to Biblical and mythical beings. Cathy is a great analogy to the Biblical Eve, for she spreads her sin about the world such as Eve did committing original sin. Also, just the fact that Cathy married Adam is a tie to Eve, as Eve was married to an Adam as well. In addition to being one like Eve, Cathy is also portrayed as Satan himself. Steinbeck depicts Cathy as having feet “small and round and stubby, with fat insteps almost like little hoofs” (Steinbeck 73). This depicts Satan in the way that he also has hoofs, and of course, is innately evil, which is also illustrated in Cathy. In addition to Biblical beings, Cathy is portrayed to be like the Greek mythical Pandora.
Cathy’s likeness to Pandora appears obvious: Adam Trask marries her against his brother’s advice; the broken box appears when he brings disaster to her family and town; the struggle over the oak box (and all it represents) brings Cathy to Adam and Adam to despair; and by opening the box containing the will, Cathy begins to bring depravity to the formerly ‘respectable’ whorehouse. (Barnes)
Like Pandora, Cathy is associated with many boxes and essentially spreads her evil everywhere. As a child, her “nipples were inverted” (Steinbeck 73), a characteristic of mythical witches. This caused her to be incapable of producing milk. Cathy is also portrayed as a cat with her sharp, small teeth and the “Cat” in “Cathy”.
Cathy’s wickedness causes her to be an extremely un-fit mother. Upon realization of her pregnancy, she was found after she attempted to murder her babies. Soon after this unsuccessful attempt, she is not relieved when she is told that life will improve after the babies arrive by Adam. After arrival, she neglects the babies immediately, and after taking it easy for a few days, she departs from the family. She even shoots Adam upon departure, with the babies uncared for.
Cathy Ames aims to bring evil to the world around her. Through vice and wickedness,
she painfully afflicts the people she comes in contact with, and even the surroundings in general.”Just as there are physical monsters, can there not be mental of psychic monsters born? (Steinbeck 72). Cathy Ames is a true monster.
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