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East of Eden tells the
story of two immigrant families the Trasks and the Hamiltons, presenting the
changes that these families undergo while pursuing the American Dream. The
setting of the novel, Salinas Valley, California. In this novel three women
with contradictory characteristics are depicted: Cathy Ames (Kate), Liza
Hamilton, and Abra Bacon. The three women reflects three distinct types of
women in the society. Liza Hamilton the traditional women, obedient wife with
strict religious believes, devoting herself as a mother to her family. She is
the contrast to Cathy Ames, who represents an evil woman without even one good
feature, by this contrast the author intensifies the characteristics of these
two women. In the other hand, Abra Bacon is a moderate character who is neither
so-traditional nor so in contrast to the norms of society.

Cathy the beautiful lady
who cares only for her desires, causes the breakdown of Adam Trask, by her evil
sinful acts. This complex character doesn’t follow the path of feminity: As a
wife she never loved her husband and she shoots him and as a mother she didn’t want
to keep her baby, she tried to abort using a needle, and after birth she abandons
her newborn children. The only role she is good at mastering is being a prostitute.
She uses her body in a non-traditional way, she refuses to use her body a birth
machine. Susan Bordo remarks:” Our conscious politics, social commitments,
strivings for change may be undermined and betrayed by the life of our
bodies-not the craving, instinctual body imagined by Plato, Augustine, and
Freud,’ but what Foucault calls the “docile body,” regulated by the
norms of cultural life.” (2362) (STEINBECK) the description of Kate’s beauty
shed light on the intense focus on the body and female beauty:

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“Cathy had from the first
a face of innocence. Her hair was gold and lovely; wide-set hazel eyes with
upper lids that drooped made her looks mysteriously sleepy. Her nose was
delicate and thin, and her cheekbones high and wide, sweeping down to a small
chin so that her face was heart-shaped. Her mouth was well shaped and well
lipped but abnormally small—what used to be called a rosebud. Her ears were
very little, without lobes, and they pressed so close to her head that even
with her hair combed up they made no silhouette. They were thin flaps sealed
against her head. Cathy always had a child’s figure even after she was grown,
slender, delicate arms and hands tiny hands. Her breasts never developed very
much. Before her puberty the nipples turned inward. Her mother had to
manipulate them out when they became painful in Cathy’s tenth year. Her body
was a boy’s body, narrow-hipped, straight-legged, but her ankles were thin and
straight without being slender. Her feet were small and round and stubby, with
fat insteps almost like little hoofs. She was a pretty child and she became a
pretty woman. Her voice was huskily soft, and it could be so sweet as to be
irresistible. But there must have been some steel cord in her throat, for
Cathy’s voice could cut like a file when she wished. Even as a child she had
some quality that made people look at her, then look away, then look back at
her, troubled at something foreign. Something looked out of her eyes, and was
never there when one looked again. She moved quietly and talked little, but she
could enter no room without causing everyone to turn toward her.” (58).

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