Steinbeck's inspiration for the novel came from the Hebrew Bible. Specifically, it came from Genesis 4: 1-16, which recounts the story of Cain and Abel. The title, East of Eden, was chosen by Steinbeck from verse 16:
"And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden."The book explores themes of depravity, beneficence, love, and the struggle for acceptance, greatness, and the capacity for self-destruction. Steinbeck said of it:
"It has everything in it I've been able to learn about my craft in all these years. I think everything else I've written has been, in a sense, practice for this."In Chapter 13, Steinbeck described the condition of the world. He said:
"There is great tension in the world, tension toward a breaking point, and men are unhappy and confused."He went on to say these conditions prompted him to ask himself three important questions. These same questions are worth asking ourselves today.
- What do I believe in?
- What must I fight for?
- What must I fight against?
"The hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross, which bridge to burn." - David Russell
"I think when people have illustrated the Bible, most of them have been devout Christians. Because they're devout Christians they can't separate themselves from the work. They get mired in piety, so they can't see the darkness. They only see the light of salvation. But if you don't have the darkness to contrast with the light, then what are you offering but cotton candy for Sunday school children? I think that some of the images in this Bible will be disturbing to a lot of people. The Bible is a very disturbing book." – Barry Moser, illustrator
"Lord, give to us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for - because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything." - Reverend Peter Marshall, a prayer offered at the opening session of the U.S. Senate on April 18, 1947
"Stop leaving and you will arrive. Stop searching and you will see. Stop running away and you will be found." - Lao Tzu
"Belief? What do I believe in? I believe in sun. In rock. In the dogma of the sun and the doctrine of the rock. I believe in blood, fire, woman, rivers, eagles, storm, drums, flutes, banjos, and broom-tailed horses…" - Edward Abbey, A Voice Crying in the Wilderness
"It is immensely moving when a mature man – no matter whether old or young in years – is aware of a responsibility for the consequences of his conduct and really feels such responsibility with heart and soul. He then acts by following an ethic of responsibility and somewhere he reaches the point where he says: 'Here I stand; I can do no other.'" - Max Weber