East of Eden

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Charles Trask Character Analysis

Charles is Adam’s brother. Charles is a violent young boy who does not consider the effects of his actions; though he loves his brother, he beats him up badly and once tries to kill him. Charles is a devoted son to his father, Cyrus, and grows into a capable yet lonely farmer. When he dies he leaves his small fortune to Adam and Catherine, though he always hated Catherine, because he could see the evil in her (likely because he felt that same kind of evil in himself).

Charles Trask Quotes in East of Eden

The East of Eden quotes below are all either spoken by Charles Trask or refer to Charles Trask. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of East of Eden published in 1952.
Chapter 3 Quotes

“You’re trying to take him away! I don’t know how you’re going about it. What do you think you’re doing?”

Related Characters: Charles Trask (speaker), Adam Trask, Cyrus Trask
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote comes during an argument between Charles and Adam Trask that boils down to Charles' jealousy of Adam's relationship with their father. Charles, like his father, is a complex person, full of rage, violence, and also the desire to be virtuous and loved. Adam is naturally peaceful and generous, and their father seems to prefer him to Charles. In this passage, the boys' father has taken Adam for a walk and told him he is to join the army to learn to overcome his fears, but Charles worries that Adam is trying to manipulate their father away from Charles himself.

Obviously, knowing the two boys' personalities, this is an outrageous assertion, but Charles projects his own personality onto Adam, assuming that Adam is doing what Charles would have done. Charles is so blinded by his own fear and jealousy that he cannot control himself, and he winds up hurting Adam, even though he loves him. This scene showcases the complexity of Charles' character and motives; he is experiencing constant inner turmoil between his fears and impulses and his desire to be good. It's significant, too, that his family brings out the most extreme emotions in him. East of Eden seems to posit that family is a uniquely powerful entity that can both soothe our worse impulses and stoke our most harmful behavior. 

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Chapter 7 Quotes

“The proofs that God does not exist are very strong, but in lots of people they are not as strong as the feeling that He does.”

Related Characters: Adam Trask (speaker), Charles Trask, Cyrus Trask
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point, Adam has just returned from his vagabond days, and he and Charles are trying to sort out their father's inheritance, which seems to have been ill-gotten. Charles has also learned from Cyrus's army papers that his war stories were likely untrue. Charles, who loved and admired his father, is distraught by this evidence of his poor character, but Adam is unfazed. He claims that this is because he doesn't believe the new information about his father.

This quote, which Adam offers to Charles as justification, shows the lengths to which Adam will go to deceive himself about others. His peaceful and generous nature is not presented here as a virtue; because Adam idealizes people and does not care to know them on a level more complex than that, Adam lives in a fantasy world constructed by his own stories. This is not familial love, but rather a selfish and isolating delusion--similar to believing in God based purely on emotion, even if one's reason says otherwise. It's interesting that, even though Charles seems to be the less virtuous brother, his insistence on taking his father's moral credibility seriously is seen as an act of love, not defamation, and Adam's indifference is painted as callous or naive. 

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Charles Trask Character Timeline in East of Eden

The timeline below shows where the character Charles Trask appears in East of Eden. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...all else. He re-marries a seventeen-year-old woman named Alice and conceives a second child, named Charles. (full context)
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Adam is a peaceful and obedient child, but his half brother Charles is assertive like his father. He is strong, athletic, and though he has nothing in... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Money, Wealth, and the Value of Work Theme Icon
One day Adam, who is typically unsuccessful in athletic competitions, repeatedly beats Charles at a game called “peewee” which involves driving a small pointed stick as far as... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
After supper that night Adam says he is going on a walk and Charles joins him. Charles demands to know what Adam and Cyrus discussed on their walk. Adam... (full context)
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...Adam returns home, beaten, Alice and Cyrus are shocked. Cyrus demands that Adam explain why Charles did this to him. Adam explains that Charles believes Cyrus doesn’t love him. Cyrus has... (full context)
Chapter 4
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
That night Cyrus goes hunting for Charles with a shotgun, but Charles hides out in town for a few weeks, and when... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
Charles writes Adam long, sentimental letters while he is away. It is as though Charles is... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Money, Wealth, and the Value of Work Theme Icon
Charles is so timid around women he could not stomach the thought of dating. Instead he... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
Charles has looked forward to Adam’s return for five years. He readies the farm in every... (full context)
Chapter 7
Money, Wealth, and the Value of Work Theme Icon
...next five years fly by, for they are uneventful and unmemorable. He writes to tell Charles that this time he is really coming home, but instead hitchhikes around the country and... (full context)
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Money, Wealth, and the Value of Work Theme Icon
One day Charles receives word in the mail that Cyrus is dead. His father has willed all his... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Money, Wealth, and the Value of Work Theme Icon
Adam finally arrives home, and his reunion with his brother is somewhat awkward. Charles is clearly hiding something. After some questioning, Adam gets Charles to reveal the fact of... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Charles asks Adam if there are any women in his life. Adam says he stayed with... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
Money, Wealth, and the Value of Work Theme Icon
...dance around the issue of their father throughout dinner, until finally they return to it. Charles is deeply worried about the possibility that the money they have inherited from their father... (full context)
Chapter 10
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Money, Wealth, and the Value of Work Theme Icon
Charles and Adam bicker constantly, and Adam periodically leaves only to come crawling back after a... (full context)
Chapter 11
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
...go to look outside they see a dirty, bloodied woman lying helpless on their porch. Charles worries how it will look if two brothers are discovered with a bloodied woman in... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
As Cathy starts to get better, Charles begins to mistrust her more and more. In a private conversation when Adam is out... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
She tells Adam she is afraid of Charles, and knows that Charles wants her to leave. Adam insists that Charles cannot make her... (full context)
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
...medications and he falls into a heavy sleep. While he is unconscious, she goes into Charles room. When Charles understands her intentions he remarks that his brother is a “poor bastard”... (full context)
Chapter 25
Good, Evil, and the Human Soul Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Religion, Myth, and the Power of Stories Theme Icon
...might not even be the boys’ father—she maliciously reveals to him that she slept with Charles after drugging Adam with her medications. Adam closes his eyes for a moment, but then... (full context)
Chapter 28
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That night Adam writes a letter to Charles—the first one in roughly ten years. He asks Charles to come see him—Charles is a... (full context)
Chapter 30
Time Theme Icon
Family, Love, and Loneliness Theme Icon
...from Adam from an east coast law firm. Adam reads the letter slowly: it says his brother is dead, and has left all of his fortune to Adam and his wife, assuming... (full context)
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After the boys go to bed Adam and Lee talk about Charles’s letter. They realize that because Adam and Cathy have never divorced, the way the will... (full context)