John Steinbeck uses the theme of evil throughout East of Eden. This theme is presented through a few characters in the book, mainly Charles Trask and Cathy Ames. Both characters posses evil within and also have no problem showing their malicious ways. Although Cathy’s diabolism is that from a more profound source of evil, while Charles’ evil is more lucid, both characters have devilish qualities that Steinbeck emphasizes throughout the novel.
Charles’ evil is first seen in chapter 3. Charles beats Adam because Adam was victorious in a game of peewee. Later on in chapter 3 Charles hits Adam again because he is jealous of the affection Cyrus gives to Adam. When Adam and Charles take a walk at night, Charles comes along simply so he can beat Adam again. Adam tells Charles that Cyrus and him were talking about the army Charles got angry and called Adam a liar and then said “Your crazy mother drowned herself. Maybe she took a look at you. That’d do it” (29). There was no reason for Charles to say such a heinous comment to Adam. They were talking about Cyrus’ conversation with Adam; it had nothing to do with the comment made by Charles. The reason Charles said it is because he just trying to make Adam feel bad in anyway
The difference between Cathy and Charles is that Cathy is pure evil whereas Charles has evil intentions. Not only was what Charles said horrible it was evil. Telling Adam that the reason his mother killed herself was because she looked at him, is a vicious thing to say to your brother. Then she lied about it saying she has a history of epilepsy in her family and she didn"tmt want to pass it to her baby. Adam eventually falls in love with Cathy and marries her without his brother"tms blessings. In comparison, if it was vice versa and Charles was crawling to Cathy"tms doorstep for help, Cathy would probably have stolen his money and killed him to get rid of the problem. Evil has consumed her body whereas it only touched Charles"tm life. These acts aren"tmt typical of a teenage schoolgirl. She tried aborting her baby with a knitting needle. Charles may have been a jealous, violent brother to Adam but in the end he still loved Adam and even missed him dearly when he went to the army. In this quote Charles really shows how he doesn"tmt even care about Cathy. Her parents loved her and cared for her and then she goes and kills them. Cathy goes beyond what you call evil, she posses demonic qualities.