Steinbeck's use of allegory in East of Eden has caused much critical resistance, but recent work in allegory theory offers ways of rereading the novel that help mediate much of this criticism. The approach to allegory forwarded here, which allows for multiple bodies of referents and fluidity between text and referents, empowers readers with greater autonomy and individual authorship. In the case of East of Eden such an approach moves the novel beyond a simple retelling of the Cain-Abel narrative to establish a flexible mythic framework for use in an ever-changing world. By challenging dualistic thinking, narrow vision, and cultural inheritance, this framework seeks to order the world in ways that allow for a greater range of humanity and agency. A consideration of early 1950s America demonstrates the relevance of such a framework in a given historical moment.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Leatham, Jeremy S., "Beyond Eden: Revising Myth, Revising Allegory in Steinbeck's "Big Book"" (2009). Theses and Dissertations. 2190.
John Steinbeck, East of Eden, allegory, myth