Steinbeck and his “women”

Lets not highlight about labor issue. Keep your mind away from immigrants’ lives when Great Depression hits the U.S in the 1920s. And set aside the social problems Steinbeck loves to write about. For me, the most amazing red line taking at least from his two outstanding novels is Steinbeck’s perspectives about women.

Through his works, women are depicted as evil and goddess as well. Sinners and saints. Angels and demons. Their personalities have somewhat stand much more stronger than men as Steinbeck’s major characters.

In East of Eden, it is inevitably how Kate draws most of my attention. I could have never imagined if such woman ever alive in this world. How could any person regard the safest place on earth was being with people she detests most? But that is Kate. The most devilish character I ever found in all of the novels I have read so far. She is just beyond wicked, lonesome yet so powerful that she prompted an internal war between four men characters in this awesome book.

I’d love the way Steinbeck puts such a brilliant ending on Kate’s fate. She dies silently on her broken-heartedness after her beloved son knows how she make ends meet by being a slut. She does not really love him. Even she abandons her twins when they still are babies. But knowing how her most favorite son leaves her…that’s so unbearable.

While Liza is just “something else”. Both she and Kate have the same attitude in the way that they are such quiet people. In contrast with Kate, Liza is a very religious person. It is from a conversation between her and her husband Samuel that I discover very real yet surprising explanation on why we, as human beings, sometimes only have to read the holy Bible (Koran) without trying to dig out meanings beyond it. Liza said” may be God only wants us to do so”. Perhaps, there ain’t no good if humans know too much. Liza is such a savior for her family. Her husband and her kids depend much on her words. She talks little, rarely express her feeling, works so hard. Even when her husband dies, she does not cry (at least in his funeral). Instead, she’s busy preparing all food for guests, making sure all eat enough.

Liza’s character is almost similar with Ma Steinbeck’s controversial novel The Grapes of Wrath. But unlike Liza, Ma is a very talkative, or if I may say, a bit demanding. She ensures her family eat and drink enough amidst limited budget. During such a long and hard journey, Ma pumps up the spirit of her kids even when her favorite son Tom Joad is in an escape after being involved in a fight. She helps her daughter Rose of Shanon to get birth of her first child, putting away bad gosspis beyond her unmarital status. She is tougher than any other men characters in the novel.

That’s how Steinbeck views women. Thats where he puts his brilliant analysis, of which it turns out to be the distinctive strength of his own novels.


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