Water governs the lives of almost every character in this book. It makes or break’s a man’s fortune, it determines the worth of land, it marks the passage of time. What is most notable about water in this book is its ability to bring both happiness and heartbreak. Sam Hamilton is better at finding water than anyone in Salinas, but in a bitter coincidence can find no water on his own land. Even more dramatically, water is capable of bringing both life and death. Water is invaluable to farmers who hope their crops will survive and thrive, but there are also multiple instances of drowning in East of Eden, both literal and metaphorical. Water comes to represent in the novel the dual capacity of the human soul for good and evil.
Water Symbol Timeline in East of Eden
The timeline below shows where the symbol Water appears in East of Eden. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...of the Salinas valley in Northern California. The land is beautiful and expansive, but dry. Water comes in 30-year cycles, and the dry seasons inspire despair and the wet seasons hope... (full context)
...mother, a godly woman who seemed to crave unhappiness, vengefully drowned herself in the shallow water of a pond after contracting gonorrhea from his father when he returned home from the... (full context)