East of Eden
John Steinback
Contributed by Katlyn Weinert
Chapter 12
Summary

The narrator philosophizes over the turning of the century and sums up his ideas of what happened. He begins with the idea that nostalgia overlays history, making people forget the horrors and remember only the sweet things. He describes the 19th century as a time of greed and violence and claims that the Mexican War was fought so that the United State could grab more land and train more generals. He passes over the idea of slavery as a mere question of property rights and the Civil War as a brief unpleasantness. He ends by saying that people put the old century out like the garbage, wiping the slate clean for the new century.

Analysis

The narrator’s view of history is an interesting mix of disgust at the bloodshed caused by greed and a jaded acceptance of the fruits of the violent seizure of land and people. He seems to recognize the injustice of the Mexican War, which he believes was provoked by the United States in order to seize more western land. Mexico did not stand a chance, and the treaty that ended the war granted great parcels of land to America, including much of the state of Texas. The reader should note that Steinbeck writes history with the same fatefulness with which he writes characters.

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