Analyzing East of Eden – 1/17

EastOfEden

It’s been a while since I talked about writing, as my mind has been more consumed with film production. I took a few minutes today to read a brief excerpt from East of Eden, by John Steinbeck, and analyze it. I think this is a great practice because it helps me understand the techniques great dramatists employ in order to have the most emotional impact on viewers. Here is the excerpt, followed by my thoughts:

***

Ethel tried to keep her fingers from grabbing at the money. [Kate] fanned the bills like a poker hand – four tens. Her mouth began to work with emotion.

Ethel said, “I kind of hoped you’d see your way to let me take more than forty bucks.”

“What do you mean?”

“Didn’t you get my letter?”

“What letter?”

“Oh!” said Ethel. “Well, maybe it got lost in the mail. They don’t take no care of things. Anyways, I thought you might look after me. I don’t feel good hardly ever. Got a kind of weight dragging my guts down.” She sighed and then she spoke so rapidly that Kate knew it had been rehearsed.

“Well, maybe you remember how I’ve got like second sight,” Ethel began. “Always predicting things that come true. Always dreaming stuff and it come out. Fella says I should go in the business. Says I’m a natural medium. You remember that?”

“No,” said Kate. “I don’t.”

“Don’t? Well, maybe you never noticed. All the others did. I told ’em lots of things and they come true.”

“What are you trying to say?”

“I had this-here dream. I remember when it was because it was the same night Faye died.” Her eyes flickedĀ  up at Kate’s cold face. She continued doggedly, “It rained that night, and it was raining in my dream – anyways, it was wet. Well, in my dream I seen you come out the kitchen door. It wasn’t pitch-dark – moon was coming through a little. nd the dream thing was you. You went out to the back of the lot and stooped over. I couldn’t see what you done. Then you come creeping back.”

“Next thing I knew – why, Faye was dead.” She paused and waited for some comment from Kate, but Kate’s face was expressionless.

Ethel waited until she was sure Kate would not speak. “Well, like I said, I always believed in my dreams. It’s funny, there wasn’t nothing out there except some smashed medicine bottles and a little rubber tit from an eye-dropper.”

Kate said lazily, “So you took them to a doctor. What did he say had been in the bottles?”

“Oh, I didn’t do nothing like that.”

“You should have,” said Kate.

“I don’t want to see nobody get in trouble. I’ve had enough trouble myself. I put that broke glass in an envelope and stuck it away.”

Kate said softly, “And so you are coming to me for advice?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I’ll tell you what I think,” said Kate. “I think you’re a worn-out old whore and you’ve been beaten over the head too many times.”

“Don’t you start saying I’m nuts-” Ethel began.

“No, maybe you’re not, but you’re tired and you’re sick. I told you I never letĀ  friend down. You can come back here. You can’t work but you can help around, clean and give the cook a hand. You’ll have a bed and you’ll get your meals. How would tht be? And a little spending money.”

Ethel stirred uneasily. “No, ma’am.” She said. “I don’t think I want to – sleep here. I don’t carry that envelope around. I left it with a friend.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“Well, I thought if you could see your way to let me have a hundred dollars a month, why, I could make out and maybe get my health back.”

“You said you lived at the Southern Pacific Hotel?”

“Yes, ma’am – and my room is right up the hall from the desk. The night clerk’s a friend of mine. He don’t never sleep when he’s on duty. Nice fella.”

Kate said, “Don’t wet your pants, Ethel. All you’ve got to worry about is how much does the ‘nice fell’ cost. Now wait a minute.” She counted six more ten-dollar bills from the drawer in front of her and held them out.

“Will it come the first of the month or do I have to come here for it?”

“I’ll send it to you,” said Kate. “And, Ethel,” she continued quietly, “I still think you ought to have those bottles analyzed.”

Ethel clutched the money tightly in her hand. She was bubbling over with triumph and good feeling.

***

*Let me preface my analysis by confessing I have not read this novel in its entirety. Nevertheless, I’d like to share my insights and you can correct me in the comment section if I’m wrong.

This scene is great in so many ways. It is really a mini-story, and clearly demonstrates Steinbeck’s dominance as one of the greatest writers of all time. I remember when I first started studying writing, I read somewhere that Steinbeck preferred to use one syllable words. I had always thought his style of writing made him a legend, but now that I have a better understanding of some of the more abstract writing concepts, I can see his ability to play with the emotions of readers is what makes his pen so devastating.

Right from the start, we can see that Ethel is desperate for money, so clearly this is her objective. But it is not enough for her to simply accept the original offering, and that is what makes her courageous here – she wants every nickel she can squeeze out of Kate.

Kate, on the other hand, begins the scene by desiring Ethel get out of her hair. After Ethel all-but threatens to turn in evidence that could potentially put her behind bars, Ethel changes her tune and her new motivation becomes doing whatever it takes to keep Ethel quiet.

What I like most about this scene is how Ethel goes about manipulating Kate to fork over more dough. She never explicitly states that she knows Kate is responsible for the death of Faye, but she implies it through a most devious way – by slyly feigning to have psychic abilities, and almost comedic-ally stating she had a dream where she witnessed Kate’s crime.

Once Kate gets the hint, Ethel has her over a barrel – and knows it. After a brief outburst of her true anger at the situation, Kate presents Ethel with a much more generous offer than the original forty bucks. But this still isn’t good enough for Ethel(rising tension!). Ethel requests a hundred dollars on the first of every month, then has the audacity to requests that it be delivered, so she does not have to go out of her way to retrieve it.

I believe that Kate threatens Ethel when she tells her that her biggest concern should be how much the night clerk, who “never sleeps”, costs. She appears to be implying that she could always pay him enough money to look the other way while Kate has somebody eliminate Ethel.

This scene features two foes with clashing objectives. Their dialogue, at the surface, appears to remain cordial – but the truth is always written in the subtext. This is one area of writing I need to improve upon. I have a bad habit of allowing characters to state their objectives outright, and go about getting their way through direct and obvious threats. This is fine for characters who maneuver through life this way, but it is so much more fun and engaging when characters behave in ways that force viewers to read between the lines in order to keep up with their motives and ploys.

I hope these insights have helped you in some way. I already know these realizations will benefit me in my own writing. See you tomorrow at 7:00 am PST.

  • Thomas M. Watt
  • Steinbeck, John. East of Eden. New York: Penguin Books, 1952. Print.

How to be Great at Everything

Herein lies the secret to being great at everything. It is ten rules, which I call the ‘Ten Pillars to being the Greatest at Everything’.

1.) Never give in to defeat.

2.) Never lose.

3.) Win every time.

4.) If you are close to losing, get up and leave the game immediately. Whip out your phone and pretend the call is very important.

5.) When your partner is about to break up with you, interrupt them and then break up with them instead.

6.) When someone sounds smarter than you, bust out a monocle and place it in your eye. Nod condescendingly, with a single eyebrow lowered.

7.) If someone is bragging about how much they bench press, just add fifteen pounds to whatever they said their ‘max’ was then claim that’s what you rep.

8.) Whenever you go to a dinner party, just walk around like you are the greatest person there. Proceed to scoff appropriately at those less great than you.

9.) Don’t ever accept a loss. There is always an excuse to be made, and you can turn that excuse into a reason you really should have won, even though you didn’t. Chalk these ‘false losses’ up as victories to whomever wants to know.

10.) Learn to run really fast. Part of being the greatest entails many people being jealous of all your victories and subsequently wanting to ‘beat you up’.

Did you know? Every famous rapper alive is actually tied for the coveted position of being the number one greatest rapper in the world.

How To Play Footsie

This informative article is written from a male perspective, so please be understanding that my knowledge to this fanciful game is limited, at best.

Footsie: A game in which male and female feet exchange subtle swipes. It sometimes involves awkward ‘step ons’, which are most commonly treated by blantant ignorance from both parties. Also considered footsie, excess-trim jean flips, as well as bouncing toe boot-lifts, and the oh-so sensual, shin-caress foot smears.

Now, the game of footsie is no easy game, by any means. There are many steps to be undertaken, the first of which is known as ‘getting yourself out there’. Getting yourself out there involves scooting your chair in, in order to bring your feet closer to your partner’s. This move is strongly encouraged to be done casually, typically with a couple of fingers dangling slyly over-mouth.

The next step, be you received, is too behave as though you don’t even notice another person’s feet have made contact with yours. Again, act casually, please.

From here on out, the real game begins. It is only as of late I’ve begin to feel I am understanding the concept from the female point-of-view. Yet first, I must digress.

Men are taught to feel practically nothing, so when the occasion comes along and they see a wounded doe, and none of their mates are beside them, they typically jump at the opportunity to do something heartfelt, and will go on to hug and caress that poor wounded bay-bay, for as long as it will allow them to.

I don’t think that is what the female wants. Yes, yes, I said it. I believe the object of the game may not be to simply let your foot sit out there idly, I’m beginning to think it is much more complex than that. I have found more footsie victories come by a well-timed ‘grab back’, which is also known as a ‘swift reverse foot-slide’.

Shuffling through papers and pretending to leave is also helpful, and more than promising to receive a longing glance of watery eyes.

To put it simply, the key to winning a game of footsie is not to leave your foot out there as a pathetic ‘Eeyore’ type effort, but instead to play a little game of touch and feel. Well played side swipes and ankle pokes could score you some points, but no move is more powerful or game-changing than the ‘random-take backs’, of which cannot be properly examined in a single post. Luckily for you, eager-foot-swagger, I will be releasing a full-volume instructional series, coming shortly to a blog near you.

In summary, don’t play glumly, seek out no sympathy swipes, and always ‘strike’ confidently. Good luck ladies and gentlemen, may another person’s feet be with you.

Did you know? Reckless games of Footsie have led to a hundred or more lower limb amputations annually since the year two-thousand, when a new line of strapless sandals first emerged.

Attention Bloggers

Does anyone know anything about WordPress? I believe it is time to take my blog to the next level. And by next level, I mean from amateur hour to half-decent homepage. As of right now, I don’t know anything about anything, and nothing about nothing. All I’m looking for is some advice to take this thing from embarrassing to a chuckle, so no overwhelming input like ‘digitize your quantosphere’ or stuff of that nature. I’m looking for, ‘click here, and then press that button, and presto!’ Specifically, I am getting a great many views on the home page/archives. I would like to get more view on specific postings I have published, yet nobody seems to click on them. Am I an idiot? Of course not. Do I want you to teach me as if I am an idiot? Well…okay. So shoot away tech-squad, feed me with your suggestions/valuable input/ complicated button clickings.

Thanks,

All of us at the McWatty9 technical center (two hands that can type pretty good)

How to get Published

The biggest mistake book writers make is they often times send their manuscripts out to big-wig publishing houses, brimming with high hopes and unsightly aspirations. They walk away from the post office with a skip and a double hand slap, commonly whistling, and staring at all who pass them with a smirk that says, ‘Yeah. That’s right. I did it. I wrote a book.’

This is all great and dandy, but these hopeful word writers don’t get to see what actually goes on behind the scenes at these big time publishing houses. Often times, when manuscripts from unknown authors arrive, they like to shovel them straight into the chimney to keep the fire going. If you’re lucky, they’ll get a glimpse of your well-thought out title, and mutter something along the lines of, “What a pathetic loser.”

When the chimney isn’t necessary, the big time publishers find other uses for the incoming manuscripts. For instance, paper-shredder test are conducted on a daily basis, from seven to nine, If you are lucky, they go chapter by chapter, and occasionally tilt their heads sideways in order to follow the words as they go through the chute.

Lunchtime discussions at these places typically center on topics such as which manuscript was the worst, which author was the stupidest, and which submission was the biggest waste of time.

After lunch commences, they return back to their offices, and the real reading begins. They pick up your hope-filled package, tear through the tape, then open up and take a look. If you did not request your book to be returned to sender, they like to take advantage of all the paper you wasted with your words, and draws lots and lots of doodles in order to get through the hellish boredom that you forced them to read.

Occasionally, a good book does come through. This is the opportunity of a lifetime, the reason they got into the business, the moment they wake up every day for. With a happy release and a scribble of the pen, they find the title of your manuscript, cross off your name, then write their own in your place.

Congratulations, now you know how to get published.

Did you know? If a stack of manuscripts goes untouched for a long enough amount of time, it will turns back into a tree.

How to Shower

The best way to shower is to use soap. When you use the soap, be sure to wipe the suds all over your body before you allow the water to spray the suds off. If you fail to do this, you are only cleaning yourself half as well as you should be.

The most thoroughly soaped body part is the chest, and the most often forgotten is the bottom of the feet (Einstein’s journal of medicine, Fictional Citation pg. 8). The biggest problem area humans who shower tend to have is the armpits.

They are known in the showering industry as the, ‘awkward v’s’, and the taller the shower goer, the harder they are to properly cleanse. Many of the shower elites recall tales of funniness, citing those times they thought they were washed, only to find white residue covering their underarms! (courtesy chuckle here)

Of all the blumbers and mistakes made in the shower, including the head-to-the-faucet ‘Doh!’, the worst feeling of all continues to be the forgotten armpit. Some of the best showerers in our generation have confessed to this lapse of following proper bathing procedure.

Holding the deodorant stick, and after a swift ‘sniff sniff’, the thought-to-be-clean human discovers they are still stinky. The realization occurs after a full-blown dry-out (known as ‘toweling’ by some in the industry), and the human has a moment of anguish.

The debate is still out there on whether or not a return to the shower is worth it, or an overlapping swipe of fresh deodorant a strong enough band-aid to hide the stinky stench.

However, as every shower aficionado knows, the worst thing to be done in this situation is to attempt what is known as a ‘sink swap’. A sink swap is when the human showerer bends over the bathroom sink and uses the hand soap to butter-up their arm pit with white suds, then poorly strive to wash the residue back off, using only scoops of water from the faucet.

The result is soapy water running down the abdomen to the thigh, and a messy tile floor. There has been more than one death reported per year from the slip and fall that so often occurs after another misguided attempt at the fabled ‘sink swap’.

* Showering USA and Mr. Clean incorporated contributed to this article.

– Did you know? Having sex in the shower is only enjoyable when you are the one hogging all the hot water.