Monday, March 08, 2010

East of Eden

I finished reading East of Eden. It's a powerful book, so beautifully written. Its story would leave a deep mark inbetween readings. I made it through, and went back to the folded corners of pages to blog about.

Steinbeck writes,

[in case I ever feel overwhelmed at my job]

"Olive Hamilton became a teacher. That meant that she left home at fifteen and went to live in Salinas, where she could go to secondary school. At seventeen she took county board examinations, which covered all the arts and sciences, and at eighteen she was teaching school at Peach Tree.

"In her school there were pupils older and bigger than she was. It required great tact to be a schoolteacher. To keep order among the big undisciplined boys without a pistol and bull whip was a difficult and dangerous business...

"Olive Hamilton had not only to teach everything, but to all ages. Very few youths went past the eighth grade in those days, and what with farm duties some of them took fourteen or fifteen years to do it. Olive also had to practice a rudimentary medicine, for there were constant accidents. She sewed up knife cuts after a fight in the school yard. When a barefooted boy was bitten by a rattlesnake, it was her duty to suck his toe to draw the poison out.

"She taught reading to the first grade and algebra to the eighth. She led the singing, acted as a critic of literature, wrote the social notes that went weekly to the Salinas Journal. In addition, the whole social life of the area was in her hands, not only graduation exercises, but dances, meetings, debates, chorals, Christmas and May Day festivals, patriotic exudations on Decoration Day and the Fourth of Judy. She was on the election board and headed and held together all charities. It was far from an easy job.... The work was so hard and the proposals so constant that they married within a very short time."

I also like this quote: "A family could indeed walk proudly if the son married a schoolteacher."

"The Hamiltons were strange, high-strung people, and some of them were tuned too high and they snapped. This happens often in the world."

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