East of Eden: The Discovery of Innocence
The Discovery of Innocence on the Western Frontier What happens in the West? What kind of change takes place when an individual crosses over the boundary separating what has been settled from what has yet to be ” the frontier. Over the last few weeks I have continued to probe the idea of the West as a place that has yet to be defined. Many times, authors and people are not even sure where it starts as it is an invisible border that exists only in the minds of those who seek to cross it.
Once across this ambiguous frontier, the traveler ncounters a place in which time seems to be suspended. As in the story of the Garden of Eden, paradise (or the West) represents a sphere in which God has held the hands of time, and the people and creatures live in a state of eternal sameness. The idea of ghost towns in the West embodies the notion of a place somehow being removed from the influence of time. Ghost towns exist as settlements that people forgot. However, unlike settlements in the East where space is at a premium and any unused building would quickly be removed and replaced by something else, in the
West these places remain, like footprints on the moon where no erosion of time can disturb them. The same principle applies to people. The West has the effect of amnesia upon the minds of those who partake of it. In many ways, it resembles the lotus flowers from The Odyssey. In the epic, any persons who tasted of the lotus flowers immediately forgot about home and opted to stay where they could partake of the flowers. A similar effect can be found among the mountain men and explorers of the Rocky Mountains.
Often times these men would become so intoxicated by the rugged eauty and isolation they found in the West that they would spend years in the mountains instead of the months they had planned on. These men became real life Rip Van Winkles, being suspended from time for so long they were not aware of major events such as presidential elections, new territories, or wars. Not only is the West edenic in the way that time operates, it is also closely tied