East of Eden East of Eden question

East of Eden-do we have a choice?
Robert M. Robert May 06, 2011 03:16AM
Steinbeck brings up the subject of Timshel. This is
from the story of Cain and Abel. In one version God says thou must defeat sin. In the Septuagint, God says thou mayest defeat sin. It gives us a choice. What do you think?

I just love the thought of 90 year old men with opium pipes in hand walking to their meeting place to discuss the bible.

Yes. We have choice. Choice not to turn out like our parents. Choice to make different decisions regardless of our gernerational nature. Choice despite our environment and past. Choice over accepting our predestined fate 'sin'. It's a deep book with may interpretations. I have the word timshel on my bookcase because it reminds me daily my fate is entwined with my daily decisions.

'Thou mayest'. The statement itself proposes a universe of possibilities and opportunities for mankind. I love how Lee, Adam Trask and Samuel had their 'philosophical' conversations over Chinese rum.. so picturesque

Best book I've ever read showing the consequences of the choices we make and the power of forgiveness.

At all times, in all situations all people have free will...we always have the choice to do good instead of evil.

I think "Timshel" is the key to this book. When I reread this book about 10 years ago, I wrote that word on a stone and have kept it on my desk ever since. The story of timshel and the choice we have always before us is beautifully told in this rich and complex story.

Well, I suppose this question first begs another. How do you define sin?

Brenda Cregor Sin is anything for which we would have to use the Atonement of Christ.
Apr 11, 2014 05:23PM

I think it says regardless of where we come from we make the choices that make us who we become. we are who we are and where we are as a direct result of decisions we make.

The sad thing is that most people go through life being completely reactive. They are molded by and controlled by their environment and others. Their brains simply develop natural responses to similar situations just like the domesticated animals that we are. But, Yes we do have a choice and it is up to each individual to make that conscious decision or awakening to the fact that we don't have to be a slave to our emotions. All of which stem directly from fear and instead make a conscious effort to, simply put, think through and consider before acting. We are blessed with potential for empathy and if we choose to consider how our actions impact others instead of simply fulfilling desires than we will be better off. TIMSHEL!

Yes, we have a choice.

Joe (last edited May 07, 2011 10:46PM ) May 07, 2011 10:44PM   0 votes
Steinbeck then writes one of my favorite lines, "Choice is the strongest word."
This has greatly affected me, knowing that in every action I take, I have choice. I am not so concerned about sin, as I genuinely strive to be good, thus I try to make the "good" choice. We aren't perfect, so when we make the wrong choice, well... we have another one waiting in the next moment.

Pandora (last edited Apr 17, 2012 09:31AM ) Apr 17, 2012 09:31AM   0 votes
As a storyteller and librarian I find that quote you use completely off. I find fiction to actually be an easier way to acess truth than facts. The problem with facts is that there is always someone around to point out this or that detail is not completely right. Truth is also complicated and often the language of story - imagery is a better way to find the truth. I also perfer to puzzle out a meaning than have it given to me.

For me I always like the story of bare naked Truth who went out to the world to deliever his message. One woman slamed the door on him. Then a group of men chased him out of town. Poor bare naked Truth sat at the edge of town wondering what happened. Story all dressed up in scrafts, ribbons, etc came by. She saw bare naked Truth and asked what was wrong. He told what happened. Story said, "I can help." She dressed Truth up and together Story and Truth went into the homes to spread their message.

Which is what Steinbeck did with The Grapes of Wrath. Somehow I doubt we would be so caught up with this idea if Steinbeck had just given us a lecture.

Rejoice, Rejoice we have no choice but to carry on. csny

Haley (last edited Jul 23, 2011 09:36PM ) Jul 23, 2011 09:36PM   0 votes
I too think that the book was based on timshel - having the choice to make our own decisions. I also think another recurring theme in this book was truth, either to seek it out or to tell it.

"There is more beauty in the truth even if it is dreadful beauty. The storytellers at the city gate twist life so that it looks sweet to the lazy and the stupid and the weak, and this only strengthens their infirmities and teaches nothing, cures nothing, nor does it let the heart soar."

After all, didn't Adam lie to himself by refusing to see Cathy's true nature. Didn't he hide the truth from his sons about their mother? Didn't Caleb withhold the truth about why Aaron joined the military and died? It seems to me that the whole story revolves around embracing the truth and making your own moral decisions, but of course... that's just what I have gotten out of it.

Free will, yes, I accept it as truth. We each have choice in the path that we go, and even after we are given over to one struggle of evil within our hearts and minds we are not bound by it forever. We must continually choose our direction, search out truth and understanding, and do better. There are times in life when doing right or good is terribly difficult, however, it does not make the good thing more or less good or the evil thing more or less evil, it only makes the CHOICE more difficult. Such is the representation of Cal in the book, who battles within himself, but isn't it goodness that creates the battle. Could Aron really be good without understanding evil because he always chose himself not thinking of others?

I think we have a choice with certain perameters and this is different for people. Psychosis is a mental health condition, people don't choose that. The Courts recognise that people are not always in the right state of mind when commiting crime and punishment reflects that. If you say that we always have a choice are you saying that people who suffer from mental health issues (is it 1 in 4 of the population at some point in their lives?) have a choice to suffer from that particular mental health issues. They may recover and it not be a permanent conditon but you can't say that they have a choice about this at that time.

He gives us a choice. We can give in to evil, but we will not get to Him that way. To reach him, to please him... we have to defeat it. which we can do through him, according to Christianity. but that's a whole other subject completely.

It gives. So much literature, so many gifts of perspective, this one is truly a masterpiece.

Of course we always have a chioce. But it is the nature of human beings that we frequently make the wrong one. I think that this is what Steinbeck is trying to say in this book, along with many other things of course, in this marvellous, marvellous book.
My only problem I have with it (and it is a problem I have with quite a few male authors) is that he doesn't write female characters very well. Even the fantastically eveil character of Cathy is a little one-dimensional, even if she is fabulous!

Do you think the theme of how one "mayest" triumph over sin to please God, or not, has some bearing on the novel's narrative of the States' westward expansion, the sticking points of race and gender relations, or even the general idea of living up to the Founding Fathers' dreams? Of course, if Steinbeck wanted to caution readers against interpreting the English Bible literally without knowing the Hebrew words, he'd probably caution them against interpreting the Founding Fathers without carefully studying their historical context the way Lee's folks studied the Torah. I mean, hey, the whole book basically reads as you MAY blow it all up, you goddamn dirty apes, or you may make America a triumph. But we don't know, yet.

Brenda (last edited Apr 16, 2012 07:17PM ) Apr 16, 2012 06:50PM   0 votes
Each of us is a "free agent", though I will say "nature" and "nurture" DO play a role in molding us.
TRUTH is the seed to make choices, which leads us to self betterment and goodness (notice, I did not say "greatness").
THE reason we were born was to see what we would choose.
Yes, choice is ALWAYS an option.

Brenda Cregor Existentialism provides zero truth.
Apr 11, 2014 05:25PM

Notice that Calab recieved his Timshel after he had made his terrible evil choice. Thus we have freedom, but we also as sinners can recieve mercy and new life after we fail. Many of us need that message.

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