The Origin of Cathy Ames
February 1, 2014 7:35 AM   Subscribe

Is there any evidence that the character Cathy Ames in Steinbeck's East of Eden was based on a real person?

Her characterization is almost a perfect description of sociopathy. I can't help but think that Steinbeck had a run in at some point in his life with a sociopath who became the inspiration for Cathy, but I can't seem to find any evidence for this.

Was it just a coincidence that Steinbeck could so perfectly describe a sociopath, or did this description come from some real life encounter?
posted by helloimjohnnycash to Writing & Language (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There's some evidence that she allegorically represents Satan in the retelling of Genesis 4. One would presume the devil would be a sociopathic character, so there's no necessarily any need for her to be based on someone he met.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:48 PM on February 1, 2014

I did a quick search inside Amazon's listing of Steinbeck's A Life In Letters and found this:

I'll speak of Cathy for a moment and then forget the book. You won't believe her; many people don't. I don't know whether I believe her either, but I know she exists. I don't believe in Napoleon, Joan of Arc, Jack the Ripper, the man who stands on one finger in the circus. I don't believe Jesus Christ, Alexander the Great, Leonardo. I don't believe them but they exist. I don't believe them because they aren't like me. You say you only believe her at the end. Ah! but that's when, through fear, she became like us. This was very carefully planned.

Not sure it answers your question, but hope it helps.
posted by sapere aude at 11:43 AM on February 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thank you sapere aude. That's frustratingly vague, but it's exactly the kind of information I was looking for.
posted by helloimjohnnycash at 7:17 PM on February 4, 2014

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