Sailing into Puget Sound in the spring of 1792, Captain George Vancouver of the Royal Navy anchored his boat in a sheltered bay he named Port Townsend. Now, 227 years later, up on the quay in this pretty Washington town sits a decrepit-looking seventy-six-foot wooden fishing boat built nearby in 1937. Western Flyer, sailed to Mexico’s Sea of Cortez by the great American writer John Steinbeck and his friend, “Doc” Ed Rickets in 1940, is now being adoringly restored by the master craftsmen of Port Townsend. Steinbeck lovingly recounted that voyage in his 1952 book The Log From The Sea of Cortez.
That boating expedition was Steinbeck’s reward to himself for completing his famous novel The Grapes of Wrath although he himself regarded his later East of Eden as his greatest book. I agree with him and am confident that I know the reason why the former is often assigned to American high school students while East of Eden is much less famous. GICs (Government Indoctrination Camps, formerly known as public schools) approve of Grapes of Wrath because, with its themes of ruthless landlords and banks along with brave labor union organizers, it encourages teachers to engage in Left Wing advocacy. East of Eden on the other hand is a staunchly religious book which cannot be understood without frequent reference to the Bible.
The very title, East of Eden is a quote from the Biblical narrative following God banishing Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.