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The American Dream in John Steinbeck’s East of Ede

n East Eden EssaysThe American Dream in East of Eden

It is what every American strives for in life, but no one ever
seems to achieve fully; it is the hopes and aspirations of every American,
yet rarely are these goals ever met. It is the American Dream. In East of
Eden, John Steinbeck displays different aspects of the American Dream
through the desires and wishes of each character. Though each character in
East of Eden may have a slightly different idea of what the American Dream
is, becoming rich and wanting a better life for one’s children seem to be a
common thread in the lives of Faye and Cathy, Adam, and Cyrus.

Becoming rich and financially stable is arguably the most important
part of the American Dream. Every character seems to think it important,
even those who do not have a lot of money. Faye obtains her wealth by
running a successful whore house. When adopting Cathy as her daughter,
Faye tells her, “I–no, we–have cash and securities in excess of sixty
thousand dollars. In my desk are notations of accounts and safe-deposit
boxes. I sold the place in Sacramento for a very good price” (233). Upon
hearing this news, Cathy knows that her act of being daughterly has worked
and she will inherit a lot of money. Being financially secure is important
to both of them and they think it is the only way for them to enjoy the
pleasures of life. Adam Trask is also a strong believer that
money is the only way for one to live a life of luxury. When inheriting
the money form his father, Cyrus, Adam is anxious to spend the money to
build a better life for his brother and himself. While his brother is
skeptical, Adam decides that he should move west in order to buy a nice
farm to raise a family on. Upon his arrival at Salinas, Adam is willing to
pay whatever it takes to buy the best plot of land. Only with money would
this have been possible and would he be happy.

Cyrus Trask believes that money makes a better life, too. If he
did not think this, he would not have thought it important to leave his
large sum of money to his sons. With his job and the money he earned, he
is able to enjoy a high-class life as a military private.

Cyrus Trask believes that his children, Adam and Charles, would
live a better life than he had if he could provide them with the right
training. He teaches them how to defend themselves and to be soldiers and
with this knowledge he believes they can only do honorable things. Because
Cyrus has the knowledge of a soldier, he is able to do noteworthy things
that got him a lot of recognition and prestige. When he passes away, he
leaves what was in his name to his two sons, and in turn provides them with
a better life. This wanting of a better life for one’s children is an
overpowering force in the American Dream.

Like his father wanted for him, Adam also wants a better life for
his two sons. He provides for them and tries to allow them to do things
that his father would not allow him to do like be a gardener or have a
rabbit farm. With his love and care, he too, hopes to provide a better
life for his sons, Cal and Aron.

Faye feels this wanting of a better life for her “daughter” Cathy.
When Cathy insists on working, Faye is upset because she wants to spend
time with her. She doesn’t want Cathy to work as a prostitute, but Cathy
feels she must work. Even though Cathy is not her real daughter, Faye
feels the that being a whore is not a better life for a woman from a rich

The American Dream is not evident in any one person, but parts of
it can be seen in everyone in the novel. No one person is able to live the
true meaning of the American Dream, no matter how hard he or she tries.
Faye and Cathy, Adam, and Cyrus are examples of characters who posses the
dreams of wanting to be rich and wanting a better life for one’s children.
In his essay, America ; Americans: Is the American dream even possible?,
Steinbeck points out, “The fact that we have this dream at all is perhaps
an indication of its possibility” (3).


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