English 2 (H) 10; 1
Cain and Abel: The Symbolic Trio of Pairs
“Why are you so angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” so flows verse 7, genesis 4. In John Steinbecks novel, East of Eden several allusions are made to the biblical story of Cain and Abel, the most significant of which revolves around the idea of “timshel:” which is embodied within this quotation. Repeated through the two generations the novel spans are three examples of this, patterned first by Charles and his brother Adam, then through Adam and his troubled wife Cathy, and finally through the aforementioned couples offspring Aron and the controversial character Caleb (Cal). The vicious cycle of Cain against Abel, Brother against Brother, in the Trask family destroys these generations and yet a glimmer of hope remains through the idea of “Timshel”. Moving chronologically, Adam and Charles are the first Cain and Abel pairing in the novel. Logically, they show the closest parallelism to the original story; this parallelism can be drawn down to three main events in the storyline. The first of these events is the acceptance and denial, respectively, of gifts presented by Adam and Charles to their father, the god figure in their version of the story. This event is followed by the attempted murder of Adam by his own brother Charles, as a direct result of the previous incident. The third event is much later in the story, as Charles is trying to move a large boulder with a crowbar he slips and cuts his forehead, an injury that will leave a large scar symbolic of the mark the Lord put upon Cain after Abels murder. The second pairing in the symbolic Cain and Abel trio is that of Cathy and Adam. Cathy and Adam are an unusual Cain and Able pairing in East of Eden but are important nonetheless. The pairing of Cathy and Adam does not express its symbolisms through key events like the other two do; instead...
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