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Cal is perhaps the most complex character in East
of Eden and the one who embodies the concept of timshel most
directly. Whereas Adam is the protagonist of the early parts of
novel, the focus shifts to Cal in the later chapters.
At first, it appears that Cal has inherited the evil tendencies
of his mother, Cathy, and that he is destined to fulfill the role
of Cain in his generation. Indeed, Cal does display the characteristics
of a Cain figure: he becomes fiercely jealous of Aron because of
Adam’s obvious preference for him, and ultimately sets in motion
the events that lead to Aron’s death, even uttering a parallel of
the biblical Cain’s retort to God about being his “brother’s keeper.”
Although Cal is seemingly “born” into an evil path, he struggles
against what he sees as his inherited evil—the evil of his mother,
Cathy—and prays to God to put him on the path toward good. Although
Cal does make several poor moral choices as he is growing up, he
ultimately takes Lee’s advice and recognizes the validity of timshel, the
idea that each individual has the power to choose between good and
evil in life. Thus, while Cal is indeed a Cain figure, he demonstrates
the ability to break out of inherited sin and act for good instead.