One of the most evil side characters in the history of literature is Catherine Ames (Trask) from East of Eden. John Steinbeck was symbolically following the biblical story of Cain and Abel and unlike the other ‘Cain’ characters, whose names also started with a C, Cathy had almost no redeeming qualities. (Ironically her son Cal was more ‘Abel’ than the other ‘Cain’s)
Cathy manipulated the world around her with such subtlety that it was virtually undetectable. She knew that mankind had weaknesses and pushed those weaknesses to serve her purposes, in a way that her victims held themselves responsible and hid the truth for shame. To everyone else Cathy was an ‘Abel’, a victim, and not even her parents or her husband could really see her for what she was. Her desires were demonic, her deeds pure evil, and yet her smile was charming. Later in the book she became the Madame of a whorehouse (by poisoning the previous one) and I can’t imagine the hell that those girls must have lived through under her care. She ruined the lives of everyone around her and literally felt no guilt.
“I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents.”
-John Steinbeck’s first sentence in describing Cathy Ames.
Have any of you read East of Eden? What do you think of Ms. Cathy?