Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

East of Eden (1955)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

East of Eden (1955)

In Elia Kazan's 'Cain and Abel'-like drama adapted from John Steinbeck's novel about California lettuce growers in the early 20th century:

  • the opening scene of Cal Trask (James Dean), from Salinas, following a dark-shrouded figure (Jo Van Fleet) in 1917 Monterey; he learned that she was known as Kate, and suspected that she was his estranged mother
  • the embittered Cal's belief that he was the 'bad' son, and that his twin brother Aron (Richard Davalos) was the favored 'good' son; Cal's father - stern, Bible-reading, Salinas valley lettuce-growing father Adam Trask (Raymond Massey) expressed his anger and blurted out to Cal: "You're bad!"; this confirmed Cal's understanding of his own self-worth: "I am bad. I knew that for a long time...It's true. Aron's the good one. I guess there's just a certain amount of good and bad you get from your parents and I just got the bad"
  • Cal's confrontation with his father, revealing that he knew that his father had spread a lie about his 'no-good' mother: "My mother - she's not dead and gone to heaven, is she?...She's not dead at all. She's not buried in the East like you said, either. She's alive"; although Adam admitted the revelation (and said he had kept it a secret to "save you pain" - spreading the belief that she had died after her twin boys were born and she had moved East), he was adamant about not telling the truth to his 'good son' Aron (Richard Davalos), Cal's twin brother; Adam described his wife years earlier: "She wasn't like other people. There was something she seemed to lack. Kindness, maybe. Conscience. I never knew what she was after...She was so full of hate....for everything"
  • Cal begged his father for more information about his mother: "Talk to me, Father. I got to know who I am. I got to know who I'm like. I got to know..."
Cal's Confrontation with His Father About His Mother:
"Talk to me, Father..."
  • the scene of Cal's first entrance into the bordello to speak to 'Kate'; he knelt in front of her inside of her office and asked softly: "Will you let me talk to you? Please. I gotta talk to you" - but she angrily threw him out and refused to talk to him: "Get out of here...Call the Sheriff! Get him out!...Get him out of here!"
  • the scene of Cal confirming the truth about his mother from kindly Sheriff Sam (Burl Ives); he learned that his mother was actually a whorehouse proprietor-Madam; Cal justified his feelings: "'Cause she ain't no good and I ain't no good. I knew there was a reason why I wasn't. I hate her. And I hate him, too"; he learned the reason for the scar on his father's shoulder (it wasn't an old wound from the Indian campaigns) - his mother had shot him years earlier before leaving him
  • Cal's second visit to speak to 'Kate' - mostly for the purpose of obtaining funds of $5,000 from his estranged mother (to 'buy' his father's love) and to invest it into a risky new bean crop; however, he first wanted to know what had split up his parents: "How come you ran away from all of us? How come you shot him?" - she replied: "I shot him because he tried to stop me. I could have killed him if I'd wanted to, but I didn't. I just wanted him to let me go....because he tried to hold me. He wanted to tie me down. He wanted to keep me on a stinkin' little ranch away from everybody. Keep me all to himself. Well, nobody holds me....He wanted to own me. He wanted to bring me up like a snot-nosed kid and tell me what to do. Well, nobody tells me what to do. Always so right himself. Knowing everything. Reading the Bible at me"; and then she bragged about her successful brothel business: "I got the toughest house on the coast, and the finest clientele. Yeah, half the stinking city hall go there. They sneak in at night and I walk in this front door in the daytime, see. And I built it up from nothing"
  • the lettuce field and Ferris wheel-carnival scenes when vulnerable and troubled Cal struggled to express his longing for Abra (Julie Harris), his brother's girlfriend/fiancee; she confessed her conflicted-in-love feelings for him - but after a kiss pulled back: ("Oh, I love Aron, I do, really I do")
  • the spurned birthday gift scene with Cal's father Adam Trask rejecting Cal's gift of cash earnings from an investment in bean futures to help relieve his father's dour financial state; Adam had become financially destitute by failing in a long-haul vegetable shipping business venture; Cal's investment surprisingly paid off when the price of beans skyrocketed due to the war
The Rejection of Cal's Cash Birthday Gift to His Father
  • Adam's harsh decline of Cal's present for lofty moral reasons: "I sign my name and boys go out and some die, and some live helpless without arms and legs. Not one will come back untorn. Do you think I could take a profit from that? I don't want the money, Cal. I couldn't take it. I thank you for the thought, but...I'll never take it! Son, I'd be happy if you'd give me something like, well, like your brother's given me, something honest and human and good. Don't be angry, Son. If you want to give me a present, give me a good life. That's something I could value"; Cal's reaction to his father's rejection - he attempted to hug his father with the cash splayed out in his hand, and then suffered a nervous breakdown
  • the scene under a willow tree outside the house when Abra comforted Cal but Aron rebuked and threatened his brother with harsh words: "Don't you ever touch her again! I don't trust you. You're no good. You're mean and vicious and wild. And you always have been. You know it too, don't you? Father and I have put up with every mean and vicious thing you could think of ever since you were a child, and we've always forgiven you. But now, I don't want you to go near Abra. I don't want you to talk with her. Just stay away from her"
  • the scene of Cal's retaliation by bringing Aron to see his mother (whom he had always been told was dead) - a whorehouse Madame engaged in a sinful profession: ("Mother, this is your other son Aron. Aron is everything that's good, Mother. Aron, say hello to your Mother"); the shock of Aron's introduction to his mother caused him to get drunk and enlist in the army
  • Cal's dramatic confrontation and revelation to his father on the porch - that he knew all about his mother and why their marriage broke up: "I know where she is and what she is. And I know why she left you. Couldn't stand it. You didn't really love her any more than you do me. Because of your goodness, your rightness. You never gave either one of us an inch, ever from what you thought was right. You kept on forgivin' us, but you never really loved us. I know why you didn't love me. Because I'm like my mother and you never forgave yourself for having loved her" - and then Cal admitted he took Aron to see their mother: "I took Aron there tonight because I was jealous. I've been jealous all my life. Jealous, I couldn't even stand it. Tonight, I even tried to buy your love. But now I don't want it anymore. I can't use it anymore...I don't want any kind of love anymore. It doesn't pay off. No future in it"
  • the emotional finale following Adam's stroke and paralysis - including Abra's explanation to bed-ridden Adam why Cal had behaved like he did, with her words about Cal not being loved in a fatherly way: ("Excuse me, Mr. Trask, for daring to speak to you this way, but it's awful not to be loved. It's the worst thing in the world. Don't ask me how I know that. I just know it. It makes you, it makes you mean and violent and cruel. And that's the way Cal has always felt, all his life. I know you didn't mean it to be that way, but it's true. You never gave him your love. You never asked him for his"); Abra pleaded that Mr. Trask show some love to Cal: ("You have to give him some sign that you love him, or else he'll never be a man. He'll just keep on feeling guilty and alone, unless you release him. Please help him. I love Cal, Mr. Trask, and I want him to be whole and strong and you're the only one who can do it")
  • in the conclusion, Cal sat by his father's bedside and ultimately reconciled with him; Adam managed to speak and asked Cal to stay with him and care for him, instead of the detested nurse; Cal told Abra the good news: "He said - 'Don't get anybody else.' He said, 'You stay with me and you take care of me.'" And then Cal and Abra fully kissed for the first time as the film concluded

Monterey (1917) - Cal Following Shrouded Figure

Cal's Brief First Visit To See His Mother in the Bordello: "Get him out of here!"

Second Visit to 'Kate' to Learn More About His Parents' Estrangement, and to Borrow $5,000

Cal's Brief Ferris Wheel Kiss with Abra

Cal's Introduction of Aron to His Mother: "Mother, this is your other son Aron"

Cal to His Father: "I know why you didn't love me"

Abra to Mr. Trask: "It's awful not to be loved"

Adam to Cal: "You take care of me..."


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