Filmsite Movie 

Review
East of Eden (1955)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
The Story (continued)

The Carnival-Ferris Wheel Sequence Between Cal and Abra:

In a memorable carnival scene, Cal abandoned his own date when he saw Abra, Aron's engaged girl friend, who was struggling to shake off the persistent attentions of a "lousy" military soldier ("If you don't stop bothering me, I'll have to call someone"). She was waiting for Aron to arrive in about half an hour at 8:00 pm. Freed from the soldier, Abra claimed that Aron had been affected personally by the war and was depressed, and she was planning on cheering him up ("I feel awfully sorry for him").

As they strolled through the carnival grounds, Cal snitched some salt water taffy and gave it to Abra, who accused him of corrupting her: "You're terrible," and stuck it back into his pocket. They had fun at a milk bottle pitching booth and in front of trick mirrors, until Cal's ditched date reappeared and asked: "Where have you been hiding?" When Cal ignored his date, Abra became curious and asked Cal about his popularity with other girls - her second inquiry: ("Girls follow you around, don't they? What are girls like that like?").

After boarding the Ferris wheel ride and looking out at the nearby small agricultural town of Castroville, Cal sang to himself about his growing crop: "Higher and higher and higher and higher, Growing and growing and growing and growing" - but she didn't know what he was referring to. She confided and confessed to him that she had conflicted-in-love feelings for Aron and was engulfed by her burgeoning insecurities. She feared that she wasn't good enough for his idealistic views of her - and that he was drifting away:

"Does Aron really love me? I seem to have sort of lost him. I mean, we're gonna be married someday, but - well, if he does love me, he doesn't - I can't tell anymore."

And then she again seemed fascinated with Cal's tendency to date lower-class, inferior girls below his stature that he didn't really love, and then proposed the reason why:

"These girls that you always go around with. You know, remember there was that little Mexican girl once. What are girls like that like? I mean, you don't really love them, do you? Well then, why do you go out with them? Is it because you're bad? You're not angry, are you? Well, why do you, then? Are you bad, Cal?"

Cal was uncertain how to answer her: "Do you think I'm bad?" - he forced her to admit: "I don't know. I guess I don't know what is good and what's bad." She turned the conversation back onto herself, and wondered - in a vulnerable and troubled way, if she was good or "perfect" enough for Aron:

"I mean, Aron is so good, and I'm not. Not good enough for Aron, anyway. Because sometimes when I'm with Aron, Aron likes to talk about our being in love and think about it and that's all right, but..."

Then she paused to ask more about Cal's relationships: "These girls that you go out with, do you - ? Maybe I don't know what love is, exactly. I know love is good the way Aron says, but it's more than that, it's got to be. I shouldn't talk to you this way, Cal, I shouldn't, but I don't know who else to talk to. And sometimes I think I'm really bad. Sometimes I don't know what to think." She returned to her perceptions about Aron, and described how her fiancee had projected an image of an idealized mother onto her (Aron had always thought she died shortly after his birth). She worried that she couldn't match up to his glorified perception of her as a wonderful bride-to-be and mother:

"The way I figure it out, Aron never having had a mother, well, he's made her everything good that he can think of, and that's what he thinks I am. And that's who he's in love with. It's not me at all. 'Cause I'm not a bit like that made-up one. Not a bit. I don't mean I think I'm really bad."

While sitting close together, Cal had a tremendous longing for his Aron's girlfriend Abra. Their intimate conversation led to Abra's grateful thanks as she placed her hand on his: ("You've been awfully nice, Cal, taking care of me"). Cal leaned over toward her and they shared a brief kiss, but then she pulled back immediately and admitted: "Oh, I love Aron, I do, really I do. I do, I do." She turned away crying, and unintentionally and deeply hurt Cal's feelings.

Anti-German Prejudice and Other Brotherly Tensions in Salinas:

Their short-lived intimacy ended when Cal spotted Aron in the crowd below, who was attempting to mediate an on-going dispute between Germany-haters who were harrassing Albrecht, pushing him around, and spreading more hateful lies. Cal climbed down from the top of the Ferris wheel to assist his brother, as the menacing mob followed Albrecht back to his white-picketed fence home in town, where Aron stood on the front yard and defended the town's resident: "Listen, you all loved him a few weeks ago, what's gotten into you?" Aron was accused by some of the citizens with betrayal for loving a token representative of the enemy: "I'm sick of him sticking up for the Germans. You a friend of the Germans?" Albrecht was called upon to read a "son killed in action" telegram (regarding the son of Mrs. Hopps) with his "funny German accent" - and then charged with not being sorry enough. Fist fights erupted as Aron was grabbed and criticized: "Why aren't you in the war?" - Cal jumped into the fray.

Order was restored when Sheriff Sam arrived - he personally greeted each citizen in the mob by name - Charlie, Danny, Loretta, Rose - and stated that Albrecht was the one who needed to be apologized to for their vandalism (to his rose garden and picket fence). He peacefully sent the silenced and ashamed crowds home: "How about you folks all going home now? I think this'll do for tonight," and calmly promised Albrecht that his trampled and damaged property would be restored to the way it was.

Afterwards, Aron jealously noticed that Abra was holding Cal's coat, and then denounced Cal for instigating the slugfest to show off for Abra. Feeling misunderstood and unduly accused for just trying to help, Cal punched his brother several times, and then raced over to the nearby Murphy's Bar. Later, when Abra arrived, she found the drunken Cal talking to himself, and partially regretting his deadly assault and battery attack on Aron: "I was trying to help him. Who am I kiddin'? I tried to kill him." She wanted Cal to confirm that their Ferris wheel kiss wasn't what it appeared to be:

"Cal, please forget it, what happened up on the ferris wheel. It didn't mean anything, really. Please, forget it. It didn't mean anything. Say it didn't. Please, say it didn't."

He was more preoccupied with his tortured obsession over his father's preference for Aron, but how he would someday soon change his father's love: "Someday, he's gonna know who his real son is....Someday he's gonna know." She responded: "You scare me" - and he affirmed: "I know. I scare myself." To carry through on his plan to subsidize his father's losses, without returning home, the impulsive Cal went to Will Hamilton's home and on his front porch, he immediately demanded his share of profits from the bean crop. Will promised that by the next morning, he would fulfill Cal's wishes after a visit to the bank:

"I'll see that you get everything that's coming to you. I'll buy out your share. And I'll go on and make a fortune with it."

Then, Cal snuck over and awakened Abra at her second floor bedroom window to eagerly share his secretive financial windfall with her, and ask her to help celebrate his father's birthday with the surprise gift:

"I gotta tell you somethin'. Can you keep a secret?... I got it....Remember that money? Dad lost? On that lettuce business? I got it...I've earned every cent....I'm gonna give him that money just like it was a birthday present."

And then he expressed true worry, regret and pain for hurting Aron: "Why did I hit Aron? Why did I hit him so hard? Will you help me?"

The Surprise Birthday Party Gift Scene:

In the film's most memorable scene, a festive birthday gift scene at his father's surprise birthday arranged by Cal for Thursday in the Trask home's living room, Abra had helped Cal to decorate (with "balloons and all that kid stuff, birthday stuff"). The two had gone through the motions of being a domestic couple - she had baked a cake and cooked the turkey meal, to be served with champagne.

Cal was openly nervous, and was anxiously hoping that his gift would be better than Aron's ("It won't stack up against mine, though, will it?"). Cal proudly showed off his pink, gift-wrapped present, but told her to keep it a secret. Abra vowed twice that she didn't know what Aron was planning to give his father: ("He told me he had something....He didn't tell me what it was...Honestly, he didn't. Cal, I'd tell you if he did. Honestly, I would"). During a moment of great intimacy, she told him: "You look wonderful."

Patriarch Adam was "very touched" by the surprise party sprung on him - he had completely forgotten his birthday. As he held Cal's gift in his hand, he first joyfully accepted Aron's unexpected announcement of his engagement to Abra as a birthday present. Adam blessed their news ("I couldn't have wished for anything nicer. A lovely birthday present. You have my blessings"). His exclamation: "I can't imagine having anything better than this" was a direct insult to Cal's unopened gift.

Adam asked confusedly as he unwrapped Cal's packaged gift of cash earnings: "What is this?" Cal stuttered: "I made it. And it's for you. It's all the money you lost on the lettuce." Adam was perplexed: "You made it, but how?" Cal responded with one word: "Beans," and then explained how his investment on bean futures paid off surprisingly well when the price of beans skyrocketed due to the war: ("We bought futures at five cents, and, uh, the war came along and, uh, the price went sky high"). Due to his good luck and timing, Cal had made a fortune selling beans to the US military to feed soldiers on the warfront. His altruistic objective was to help relieve his father's dour financial state, restore the family's lost resources, and recover all of the investment money his father had lost in the lettuce business. Adam had become financially destitute by failing in a long-haul vegetable shipping business venture.

However, Cal's father rejected and declined the monetary birthday gift for lofty moral reasons, and he also felt that in some cases, the farmers had been exploited: "Cal, you will have to give it back." Cal was stunned because it was impossible to return the money to the British Purchasing Agency (the European purchaser of the beans). Then, when Adam suggested paying back the "robbed" farmers instead, Cal protested: "We didn't rob anybody, Dad. We paid 2 cents a pound, 2 cents over market for that stuff." Cal's father then claimed that he didn't want to profit from the war in any way:

"I sign my name and boys go out and some die, and some live helpless without arms and legs. Not one will come back untorn. Do you think I could take a profit from that? I don't want the money, Cal. I couldn't take it. I thank you for the thought, but...I'll never take it! Son, I'd be happy if you'd give me something like, well, like your brother's given me, something honest and human and good. Don't be angry, Son. If you want to give me a present, give me a good life. That's something I could value."

Filmed with a slanted camera angle, it was a devastating rejection as Cal bent over in emotional pain.

[Note: In the Biblical story, God also rejected Cain's gift, a non-blood sacrifice - "an offering of the fruit of the ground," while accepting Abel's blood-sacrifice of "the firstlings of his flock and of their fat."]

Cal reacted to his father's harsh rebuttal - with aching and self-pity. He attempted to throw himself onto his father to hug him, with the cash splayed out in his hand that fell to the floor, and then suffered a complete nervous breakdown. A primal scream brought the words: "I hate you!"

The Willow-Tree Scene With Abra and Aron:

Empathetic Abra rushed outside to comfort and console Cal who was grieving outside the house under a weeping willow tree. Cal moaned: "He doesn't want anything from me." Seeing how close Abra was with Cal, the disapproving Aron ordered her away, and then called his 'no-good' brother "mean and vicious" (as his father had done), and forbade any future association between Cal with Abra:

"Don't you ever touch her again! I don't trust you. You're no good. You're mean and vicious and wild. And you always have been. You know it too, don't you? Father and I have put up with every mean and vicious thing you could think of ever since you were a child, and we've always forgiven you. But now, I don't want you to go near Abra. I don't want you to talk with her. Just stay away from her!"

Aron's Visit with Cal to Kate's Place to Learn the 'Truth' About Their Mother:

Cal vengefully retaliated by suggesting going "some place" with Aron - to reveal and show him something "very interesting" -- "the truth" and reality of their upbringing: "Maybe our mother didn't die and go to heaven after all, Aron...Maybe she didn't...Maybe she's alive someplace." By daring Aron ("What's the matter? You afraid?...Come on, you can look at the truth, just once. Can't you?"), he persuaded his brother to accompany him (to Monterey to see their mother, whom Aron had always been told was dead). [Note: There was no transitional scene of their transportation to Monterey, a distance of about 30 miles - there was only a quick dissolve shot.]

The two brothers entered the dark hallway off the saloon area in Kate's Place. Cal was the first to venture into the office, while Aron stood back. His intention was to cruelly reveal the secret lies about their mother. Startled by Cal's appearance and with a decanter of alcohol in front of her, Kate uneasily stood up, and steadied herself on the corner of her desk. Cal paused, held his hand up, then pulled Aron into view from around the corner to introduce him:

"Mother, this is your other son, Aron. Aron is everything that's good, Mother. Aron, say hello to your Mother."

Aron could only stare in disbelief. To bring them together, literally, Cal yelled: "SAY HELLO TO YOUR MOTHER, ARON!" and pushed Aron forward on top of her. Aron now knew the "truth" - that she was a whorehouse Madam engaged in a sinful and depraved profession - as a hardened and drunken prostitute rather than as an ideal and lost mother figure. [Note: The revelation poisoned Aron's long-held fantasies about his virginal and saintly mother - and would send him off in a drunken stupor to the deadly war.]

The Aftermath of The Revelation - Cal's Dramatic Porch Confrontation With His Father:

In the Trask home after the disrupted party, Abra was reading to Adam - an excerpt from the poem The Old Apple-Tree by Ann Stephens:

"I'm thinking of the lilac trees
That shook their purple plumes.
I'm thinking of the rivulet with its cool and silvery flow.
Of the old gray rock that shadow'd it,
And the peppermint below."

When a stumbling Cal returned home, he was childishly swinging on the outdoor tree swing, wildly moving back and forth - toward and away from his father. [Note: Kazan's camera-work again tilted or reflected the swinging motion to subliminally communicate the chaotic nature of their relationship.]

Cal's father asked about Aron's location, and Cal coldly denied any responsibility: "I'm not my brother's keeper."

[Note: This was a direct quote from the Bible (Genesis 4: 8-9) - Cain responded the same way to God after killing his brother out of jealousy.]

He told his father that he had come back to get the money he had earned, and then leave town and start a business - "just like my mother did." He shared his mother's business acumen - and had succeeded in the real world with his bean crop, unlike his father. He engaged in a dramatic confrontation with his father on the porch - he revealed that he knew all about his mother and why their marriage had broken up:

"I know where she is and what she is. And I know why she left you. Couldn't stand it. You didn't really love her any more than you do me. Because of your goodness, your rightness. You never gave either one of us an inch, ever, from what you thought was right. You kept on forgivin' us, but you never really loved us. I know why you didn't love me. Because I'm like my mother and you never forgave yourself for having loved her."

Cal accused his father of denying him love because he was a reminder of the 'badness' of Kate. He turned to Abra to declare that he could never forgive: "I'm not gonna forgive him. I'm never gonna forgive him." Cal admitted that he had taken Aron to see their mother in Monterey ("She owns one of them houses!"), on account of his life-long jealousy of Aron, and it was his way of getting even ("I took Aron there tonight because I was jealous. I've been jealous all my life. Jealous, I couldn't even stand it"). And now, he no longer desired his father's love:

"Tonight, I even tried to buy your love. But now I don't want it anymore. I can't use it anymore... (To Abra) I don't want any kind of love anymore. It doesn't pay off. No future in it."

As Cal packed in his bedroom to leave, Abra tried to dissuade Cal from brashly deserting and abandoning everyone, as she admitted her fear: "I'm afraid of you." And she also worried about the damage that had been unleashed on Aron, and took some of the blame for it. The shock of Aron's introduction to someone other than his idolized mother had caused him to fall apart. The Sheriff arrived to report that the raging, out of control Aron had become drunk and engaged in fights and had gone "kind of crazy." He was at the train station - and "seemed determined to get himself hurt." In a complete turn-around, Aron was planning to enlist in the Army the following day (although he was a pacifist and conscientious objector) and was leaving on the night's troop train: "Says he's gonna enlist tomorrow at King City."

Cal, Abra, and Adam all raced to the station, where Aron was so drunk that he smashed his head through a train window and showered his father on the train platform with glass. As the train pulled away, Adam collapsed in Cal's arms.

Adam's Stroke and Paralysis in the Finale:

In the emotional finale, the stark revelations on the porch and at the train station had caused Adam to suffer a stroke and paralysis, described by Dr. Edwards (Richard Garrick) as "leakage of blood in the brain caused by shock." Adam was helplessly paralyzed ("the left side is paralyzed, and the right side partly"), and feared to be close to death. As Sam left and expressed disappointment for what Cal had fomented, he recited lines from the Biblical story of Cain and Abel in the Book of Genesis (Chapter 4, Verse 16), to remind Cal that Cain had been exiled by God to the land of Nod (East of Eden!) after murdering his brother Abel:

"Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and slew him. And Cain went away and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden."

Sam was implying that Cal deserved exile, because he had nearly killed his father, and his resented brother Aron would presumably die in the war. He urged Cal to leave town and exile himself: "Now why don't you go away some place?" Cal agreed and told Abra: "He's right...that's what I'll do."

Bedridden, Adam had been placed in the care of a narcissistic, impertinent, repellent and insensitive Nurse (Barbara Baxley), who coldly complained to Abra: ("I can tell you, I won't have this job for long. That's my luck. Always seem to get them when they're old and ready to die off"). Cal and Abra quietly entered Adam's bedroom, where he was completely unresponsive and staring blindly ahead. Cal ordered the Nurse from the room and then attempted to humbly apologize: "Father. Can you hear me? I did an awful thing. I'm sorry." And then Cal began to prepare to pack and leave.

Abra's Bedside Speech to Adam - "It's Awful Not to Be Loved":

Alone at Adam's bedside in the so-called "It's Awful Not to Be Loved" speech, Abra wondered if Adam could hear her. When she assumed that he could, she tried to explain to him the truth about his father-son relationship, and why Cal behaved like he did - it was because Cal had not been properly loved in a fatherly way. Abra confided that she loved Cal, and that she wished that he would also express his love for Cal. She suggested that Adam ask Cal for "something" - as a "sign" and way of communicating his suppressed love and showing his need for his son:

"Mr. Trask, can you hear me? Is it just Cal you won't answer? Can you answer? I think you can understand me, though. I think behind your eyes, you're just as alert as ever. You understand everything I say only you can't show it....

Excuse me, Mr. Trask, for daring to speak to you this way, but it's awful not to be loved. It's the worst thing in the world. Don't ask me how I know that. I just know it. It makes you, it makes you mean and violent and cruel. And that's the way Cal has always felt, all his life. I know you didn't mean it to be that way, but it's true. You never gave him your love. You never asked him for his. You never asked him for one thing. Cal is going away, Mr. Trask. But before he goes, well, he did something very bad, and I'm not asking you to forgive him. You have to give him some sign that you love him, or else he'll never be a man. He'll just keep on feeling guilty and alone, unless you release him. Please help him. I love Cal, Mr. Trask, and I want him to be whole and strong and you're the only one who can do it. So try, please try. If you could, if you could ask him for something. Let him help you so that he knows that you love him. Let him do for you. Excuse me, Mr. Trask, for daring to speak to you this way, but I just had to."

Cal's Reconciliation With His Father:

Outside the bedroom, Abra then challenged Cal to stop crying, feeling sorry for himself, and continuing to blame his father, who was in dire failing health: "You don't know that he accuses you. You don't know what he's thinking about. Stop it, Cal. You gonna cry for the rest of your life?...Well then stop it. Go in there and talk to him before it's too late." Cal refused, but then after Abra's second insistent request: ("Get it straight. Get through to him, somehow. Please try, Cal, before it's too late"), Cal reluctantly agreed to try and bring reconciliation between himself and his father.

Cal sat at his father's bedside to care for him and to explain that he wouldn't let his skewed belief of being "bad" dictate his life - he accepted personal responsibility for his life ("a man has a choice"), and acknowledged that he would heed his father's earlier advice. He refuted his long-held claim that he had acquired his "badness" through his hereditary genes without any choice in the matter:

"I tried to believe it was born in me and that I couldn't help it, but that's not so. A man has a choice. You used to say that was where he was different from an animal. You see, I remember. A man has a choice, and the choice is what makes him a man. You see, I do remember."

Brought back to consciousness and with a weak attempt to talk, Adam asked for Cal to stay with him and care for him - and to fire the detested and annoying Nurse: ("Cal, do something for me...That woman, the Nurse, can't stand her. Get me another"). Cal agreed: "Can't stand her either." He then whispered something else (inaudible) in Cal's ear. Cal shared with Abra the good news about his father's assuring whispered words:

"He said, 'Don't get anybody else.' He said, 'You stay with me and you take care of me.'"

And then Cal and Abra tenderly and fully kissed for the first time as the film concluded. Cal pulled up a chair next to his father's bed to faithfully attend to him.


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