i can't decide if i think east of eden is sui genus or trite.
in form, as a westerner, the similarities to genesis are easy to recognize, the sources of conflict following form, thus: cain:abel::charles:adam::caleb:aron. an interesting choice which broadens the scope of jealousy and makes it more believable. (the idea of a brother slaying his brother out of jealousy of a platonic love strains the limits of my imagination.) the form of the book takes out the sting of the dead bodies strewn throughout. though, it amuses me that the novel was so blunt about how the love that people had for aron was a reflection of their desires, not for anything that was singular to aron.
inheritance takes on deeper meaning: today, we inherit $$$, a tool to further our individual ends; before, we inherited farms, businesses, a position in the community, and, by extension, a life continued through the generations. when a place is inherited, the propensity to make the same choices, be they good or bad, harmful or helpful to one's self, becomes apparent. the rub, though, is that steinbeck suggests that only some people make choices while the majority have their "choices" determined already--this is most transparent in his character dialogues on the most accurate translation of timshel.
the novel felt so personal and specific, as if i were reading someone's diary without permission. it wrestled with a question i hadn't bothered asking myself, my personal responsibility for my forbears--which it then, by some sleight of hand, transformed from a stale ancient precept of blood-washes-blood straight from a greek tragedy, to an egocentric what-do-i-do-now? and like a good modern man, he leaves it at that: a guiding question.
i don't, however, see how much of this is distinct from concepts in the nicomachean ethics. yes, people are strong products of their blood and upbringing. yes, as a result, only a few are able to achieve happiness. ...i'm probably over-simplifying.