Newsletter: East Of Eden
So much is unfolding as we enter into Part Three of this wonderful saga! The Hamilton family is transforming through time and tragedy. The Trask boys are literally evolving into Cain and Abel. After 11 years, Adam finally goes to Cathy and confronts her—and in doing so, he frees himself from the burden of her evil and depravity. And once again, our "teacher," Lee, brings us profound thought and wisdom. I could read these chapters again and again, they are so rich in story, texture and truth!
Samuel Hamilton is leaving ranch life in Salinas. He goes to bid farewell to his old friends Adam and Lee. Seeing Cal and Aron reminds Sam quite startlingly of Cain and Abel. Once again, the three men discuss the 16 verses of Chapter Four in the Book of Genesis since Lee has studied one line of the verses in great detail. His studies reveal the most powerful thread in the novel:
Lee explains that in the King James version of the Cain and Abel story, God says to Cain, "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him." Lee sees this as God's promise that Cain would conquer sin.
In the American Standard Bible, God says, "Do thou rule over him." Lee sees this not as a promise but as an order from God that Cain must conquer sin. Lee searches for the original Hebrew word to understand God's true intent in his words to Cain.
"Why is this word so important?" Lee asks. "The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in 'Thou shalt,' meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—'Thou mayest'—that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if 'Thou mayest'—it is also true that 'Thou mayest not."
In his letters, Steinbeck wrote that timshel is "the offering of free will. Here is individual responsibility and the invention of conscience. You can if you will but it is up to you. ... This little story turns out to be one of the most profound in the world. I always felt it was but now I know it is." *