East of Eden – Standout Quote #3

05/04/2010

Lee said, “Mr. Hamilton, you’re going away and you’re not coming back. You do not intend to live very much longer.”
“Thats true, Lee. How did you know.”
“There’s death all around you. It shines from you.”
“I didn’t know anyone could see it,” Samuel said. “You know, Lee, I think of my life as a kind of music, not always good music but still having form and melody. And my life has not been a full orchestra for a long time now. A single note only — and that note unchanging sorrow. I’m not along in my attitude, Lee. It seems to me that too many of us conceive a life as ending in defeat.”
Lee said, “Maybe everyone is too rich. I have noticed that there is no dissatisfaction like that of the rich. Feed a man, clothe him, put him in a good house, and he will die of despair.”
“It was your two-word retranslation, Lee — ‘Thou mayest.’ It took me by the throat and shook me. And when the dizziness was over, a path was open, new and bright. And my music has a new last melody like a bird song in the night.”
Lee was peering at him through the darkness. “That’s what it did to those old men of my family.”
“Thou mayest rule over sin,’ Lee. That’s it. I do not believe all men are destroyed. I can name you a dozen who were not, and they are the ones the world lives by. It is true that the spirit as it is true of battles–only the winners are remembered. Surely most men are destroyed, but there are others who like pillars of fire guide frightened men through the darkness. ‘Thou mayest, Thou mayest!’ What glory! It is true that we are weak and sick and quarrelsome, but if that is all we ever were, we would, millenniums ago, have disappeared from the face of the earth. A few remnants of fossilized jawbone, some broken teeth in the strata of limestone, would be the only mark man would have left of his existence in the world. But the choice, Lee, the choice of winning! I had never understood or accepted it before. Do you see now why I told Adam tonight? I exercised the choice. Maybe I was wrong, but by telling him I also forced him to live or get off the pot. What is that word, Lee?”
Timshel,” said Lee. “Will you stop the cart?”
“You’ll have a long walk back.”
Lee climbed down. “Samuel!” he said.
“Here am I.” The old man chuckled. “Liza hates for me to say that.”
“Samuel, you’ve gone beyond me.”
“It’s time, Lee.”
“Good-by, Samuel,” Lee said, and he walked hurriedly back along the road. He heard the iron tires of the cart grinding on the road. He turned and looked after it, and on the slope he saw the old Samuel against the sky, his white hair shining with starlight.

This one is a bit longer than others, but it stood out too me. I am trying not to post anything that would spoil key plot points as well. I can’t believe how much has happened in this book when I am only at the mid-way point of it.

It’s freaking long.

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