“East of Eden is a novel by Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck, published in September 1952. Often described as Steinbeck’s most ambitious novel, East of Eden brings to life the intricate details of two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons, and their interwoven stories. The novel was originally addressed to Steinbeck’s young sons, Thom and John (then 6½ and 4½ years old, respectively). Steinbeck wanted to describe the Salinas Valley for them in detail: the sights, sounds, smells and colors.
The Hamilton family in the novel is said to be based on the real-life family of Samuel Hamilton, Steinbeck’s maternal grandfather. A young John Steinbeck also appears briefly in the novel as a minor character.
According to his third and last wife, Elaine, Steinbeck considered it his magnum opus. Steinbeck stated about East of Eden: “It has everything in it I have been able to learn about my craft or profession in all these years.” He further said: “I think everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this.” ”
“The Land of Nod (Hebrew: אֶרֶץ־נוֹד – ʾereṣ-Nōḏ) is a place mentioned in the Book of Genesis of the Hebrew Bible, located “on the east of Eden” (qiḏmaṯ-ʿḖḏen), where Cain was exiled by God after Cain had murdered his brother Abel. According to Genesis 4:16:
And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.
וַיֵּ֥צֵא קַ֖יִן מִלִּפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב בְּאֶֽרֶץ־נֹ֖וד קִדְמַת־עֵֽדֶן׃
Genesis 4:17 relates that after arriving in the Land of Nod, Cain’s wife bore him a son, Enoch, in whose name he built the first city.
The Land of Nod can refer to the mythical land of sleep, a pun on Land of Nod (Gen. 4:16). To “go off to the land of Nod” plays with the phrase to “nod off”, meaning to go to sleep. The first recorded use of the phrase to mean “sleep” comes from Jonathan Swift in his Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation (1737) and Gulliver’s Travels. A later instance of this usage appears in the poem “The Land of Nod” by Robert Louis Stevenson from the A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885) collection.”
From the website of the Poetry Foundation:
“From breakfast on through all the day
At home among my friends I stay,
But every night I go abroad
Afar into the land of Nod.
All by myself I have to go,
With none to tell me what to do —
All alone beside the streams
And up the mountain-sides of dreams.
The strangest things are there for me,
Both things to eat and things to see,
And many frightening sights abroad
Till morning in the land of Nod.
Try as I like to find the way,
I never can get back by day,
Nor can remember plain and clear
The curious music that I hear.”