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View Diary: Gay Marriage in John Steinbeck's East of Eden (52 comments)

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  •  I agree. Lee is not a man, in Steinbeck's eyes (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nulwee, bigjacbigjacbigjac, DvCM

    He's "other" -- as are women. So his feminization/assumption of the feminine role, doesn't reflect Steinbeck's views on masculinity OR on the relationship between men.

    IOW, the conflict that "necessarily" emerges between "real" men is never going to happen between Adam/Lee because Steinbeck can't IMAGINE Lee as a real man, because he's Asian.

    Essentially, it's Steinbeck's bigotry showing through. Not bigotry in the sense that Steinbeck assumes there's something intrinsically wrong with Asians, but his belief, IMO, that Asians are not "real" Americans in the way that white people are.

    •  I think this goes a little far (5+ / 0-)

      The imputation of bigotry strikes me as over reading in the same way as imputing a "marriage" relationship does. It seems to me that Steinbeck was focused on his characters as individual personalities rather than stereotypes/archetypes.

      Consequently, to the degree that he succeeds in making them such, they are complex, contradictory figures, just like "real' people and not reducible to mere ciphers representing larger social constructs or prejudices.

      Nothing human is alien to me.

      by WB Reeves on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 01:28:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not calling him a racist, per se (4+ / 0-)

        Guilty of a unconscious bigotry, yes, I think so.

        But it's reflective of the attitude of the times. And California was RIFE with anti-Asian bigotry, particularly towards the Chinese. So, for the time, his was a very open-minded sympathetic portrait. BUT, to me, Steinbeck, for all the humanism  he displayed, still sometimes displayed a perception of Asians, women, and pretty much everyone who was NOT a white male as "other."

        This is not to say he did not often SYMPATHIZE with the other -- he certainly did.

        •  Is Lee a fully realized personality, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DvCM

          or merely a stereotype? That's the criteria for assessing whether Steinbeck was channeling popular bigotry or not. Popular bigotry would have excluded the former and embraced the latter.

          Nothing human is alien to me.

          by WB Reeves on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 03:46:34 AM PST

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          •  I don't agree. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            pengiep

            I think you can hold on to bigotries without recognizing them. Some may be relatively benign -- unconsciously assuming that all African Americans would only have black dogs (there's a poem about that by a Harlem Renaissance poet whose name I cannot recall).

            Or you can have negative assumptions about a GROUP but feel that individual members rise above that -- but that those individuals are unique.

            I can't buy into the argument that says (if I'm understanding you correctly) that anyone capable of writing a 3-dimensional portrait of someone of another race can't be guilty of bigotry/racism.

            This is an extreme example, but read about The Education of Little Tree.

            http://books.google.com/...

            •  "unconsciously assuming that all African Americans (0+ / 0-)

              would only have black dogs." Wow, that is pretty weird! I had no idea people would think that being black would have any influence on what color their dog might be!!!!

              "Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens," -Friedrich Schiller "Against Stupidity, the Gods themselves contend in Vain"

              by pengiep on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 08:46:52 AM PST

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            •  I thought the question was (0+ / 0-)

              whether the portrayal of Lee was evidence of bigotry. Wasn't that your assertion? The fact that a former Klansman could write a believable, sympathetic character who isn't "white" would seem to prove my point; you can't draw reliable conclusions about an author's views based on a particular character. Unless, of course, the character is a blatant racist stereotype. That brings us back to whether Lee fits the bill.

              The whole point about "The Education of Little Tree" is that no one suspected that the author harbored racist sentiments based on that text. Hence the shock when the facts about his background emerged.    

              Nothing human is alien to me.

              by WB Reeves on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 10:46:12 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  And I do assert that there was a level of bigotry (0+ / 0-)

                on Steinbeck's part in that, to him there could be no "automatic/necessary" conflict between Arthur and Lee because Lee to Steinbeck, was not a REAL man (only white men can be real men/Asians are not white men/Asians therefore are not "real" men/therefore bigotry.)

                IOW, I doubt the OPs reading that the relationship was homosexual. Homosocial, yes and ONLY possible because Steinbeck considered Asians to be "other." Not necessarily a BAD thing, note, except in comparison with Steinbeck's standards for "real" (white) men.

                My point about Little Tree was that you can be racist and create a fully realized portrait of the "other," NOT that being a racist automatically means your racism shows through in your writing.

                •  Well (0+ / 0-)

                  you can assert whatever you like but it would be helpful if you would root your assertions in the text. How, exactly does the text support your assertions? Isn't that where you started from, asserting that Steinbeck's portrayal of Lee indicated bigotry on his part?  

                  Nothing human is alien to me.

                  by WB Reeves on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 01:36:13 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

          •  Well, I do think he's a personality (0+ / 0-)

            But I think Samuel was the only one who really saw him like that.

            The scene the diary described about the "over feminine" room seemed to me to show Steinbeck describing the artificiality of the Trask home. Adam, head of the house, took no interest in his home or children. Lee tried to create a home, told the boys that their father wanted them to do this or that when in fact the instructions came from Lee himself, trying to keep them from knowing how little their father cared about them during their childhood (although he got more involved later). It was an act and the house a stage setting, not a home.

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