East of Eden by John Steinbeck is one large allusion to the Book of Genesis. The title of the novel is literally taken from Genesis 4:16. One of the crucial passages, in my opinion, comes when one of the main characters, Adam, is debating what to name his twin boys. He settles on Caleb and Aron, but not before discussing Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel because God favored Abel's offering of an animal more than Cain's offering of grain. Lee, Adam's steward, articulates:
“I think this is the best-known story in the world because it is everybody's story. I think it is the symbol story of the human soul...The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears. I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt—and there is the story of mankind. I think that if rejection could be amputated, the human would not be what he is.” (pp.268-269)
Rejection is a fact of life. We cannot eliminate it. The negative is what make us human. We do, however, have a choice in how we deal with that rejection. This is where the key word of the entire novel comes into play: timshel. It is a Hebrew word that means ‘you may (or may not).’ Adam utters this word with his dying breath. When we are rejected, we have the choice to have faith in God and endure or to abandon God and consign ourselves to anger and pain. Our choice will determine whether the cycle of sin will be broken or perpetuated.