In John Steinbeck’s novel, East of Eden, the deprivation of a sound conscience is a theme that is associated with Cathy Ames, and afflicts the people around her. The author uses foreshadowing to portray the future of Cathy and her multiple victims. By doing so, the author builds onto the characterization of Cathy, revealing how truly malevolent she is. From birth, Cathy is foreshadowed to develop into something monstrous. The author claims that he “believe(s) there are monsters born in the world to human parents” (72).
Even though she has not been physically presented to the reader yet, Cathy is about to be portrayed as the main evil in this novel. This prelude to Cathy’s characterization foreshadows the evil that will come with her presence. Cathy’s reign of terror begins when she burns her own house down, and “the frightened talk ran through the town that the whole Ames family had burned” (87). This action corresponds to the foreshadowing presented by the author’s description of monsters being born to human parents.
By committing such an inhumane act, the reader gains the knowledge that Cathy has no conscience. Cathy’s tirade did not end there, and after giving birth to Adam, and possibly Charles’, babies and trying to leave him, “she shot at him. The heavy slug struck him in the shoulder and flattened and tore out a piece of his shoulder blade” (202). Cathy’s ability to kill the father of her children without even considering the severity of her actions shows how much of a monster Cathy truly is.
The actions performed by Cathy at such an early stage in the story only foreshadows to the reader that she has not yet ended her path of destruction. Cathy’s inner evil is revealed at birth, and, at a young age, she discovers that she holds powers that can be used to manipulate others. From birth Cathy is foreshadowed to be pure evil, and she “learned when she was very young that sexuality with all its attendant yearnings and pains, jealousies and taboos, is the most disturbing impulse humans have” (75).
It is disturbing that Cathy realizes her sexual capabilities at such a young age. The way Cathy’s thought process is presented, it can be seen that Cathy plans to abuse her powers, foreshadowing conflicts to arise in the future. It did not take long for Cathy to utilize her powers, and “at ten Cathy knew something of the power of the sex impulse and began coldly to experiment with it” (75). Cathy’s ‘experimentation’ with sexual power at such a young age helps further depict her as a malevolent being with no conscience.
The fact that she begins abbling in sexual activities, at an age where most don’t even know what sex is, foreshadows that there can only be trouble to come from involvement with Cathy. Years pass and, as foreshadowed, Cathy becomes a major contributor to her local brothel. When speaking of her regular customers with the brothel’s owner, Faye, Cathy tells her to “look at the heel marks on their groins… I’ve got the sweetest set of razors all in a case” (236). Cathy has been secretly sodomizing and extorting extra money from her regulars, showing she is not content with the amount of control she already possesses.
Her actions foreshadow that Cathy’s search for power is never ending, foreshadowing she will continue her malicious acts until someone is capable of stopping her. At birth Cathy is depicted to be monstrous, which is proven true by the actions she displays while growing as a child. The realization of the many powers she possesses are developed and abused by Cathy, showing she disregards all others well being in her search for total control. Such actions can only be performed by those who have no sound conscience, and have no fear of the consequences posed by society.
Courtney from Study Moose
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