In East Of Eden, a main theme that is displayed is the freedom to overcome evil in the world. The hebrew word that Lee uses to convince Cal to overcome sin is timshel, which is the freedom of choice. The word timshel translates to “thou mayest” and is used by God in the Cain and Abel story telling Cain that he has the opportunity to overcome sin. Free will does not just come easily, but it will come if you have the will to fight for it.
The protagonist, Adam, is depicted as good in comparison to the other characters in both the book and movie. In the story, Adam makes moral decisions when situations come to hand and he is offered dishonest money from his son, Cal. Adam tells Cal that it is “evil money” and to return it. He did not want anything to do with it. This brings in the idea of timshel, Adam has free will in this case. Adam is able to overcome the sin and reject the money that he knows was received unfair in the eyes that had worked for the money and it was taken from them. At the end of the story Adam is paralyzed and is dependent on nurses to take care of him. Being paralyzed can symbolize the evil in the world and the idea that he is unable to do things on his own. This is another representation of how Adam is able to break free from the evil and overcome sin.
Cathy, who is the ex-wife of Adam and mother of Aron and Cal is displayed as evil in the role she plays in the story. In the book, it introduces her in the story by explaining why she is seen as evil.
I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents. Some you can see, misshapen and horrible, with huge heads or tiny bodies. . . . And just as there are physical monsters, can there not be mental or psychic monsters born? The face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produce a malformed soul? (Steinbeck 71)
Cathy had killed her parents and tried to kill her unborn baby. The author is making is trying to make it clear that Cathy is depicted as a evil character. He is saying that it occurred naturally to Cathy as if she was born this way. Cathy surrenders herself to sin because she states that there is so much of it in the world it is nearly impossible to fight. This shows that Cathy does not believe in timshel and how she is unwilling to fight to be able to achieve free will. This can make her viewed as a pessimistic character and how she views the world in a whole. Cathy embraces sin because she is so insecure and does not know how to cope with the idea that she is not willing to overcome sin.
Cal is viewed as a evil character and he is looked down upon due to the fact that his brother, Aron, lives a more successful lifestyle. Cal is the most complex character in the story and struggles with timshel the most. Cal’s jealously has him make evil decisions that lead to negative results including leading his brother to his death. In a writing done by Yehuda bar Ami he states that...