I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?
In Chapter 34 of East of Eden, the narrator discusses his view that the one central narrative in human history is the endless struggle between good and evil. He believes that this recurring conflict is so important to human history that there essentially “is no other story.” Each individual, regardless of what his or her ancestors have learned, struggles with the same fundamental problem of evil. In this way, no progress is made as generations pass, for each individual faces the same ancient struggle and the same ancient choices. Although the narrator’s idea is somewhat optimistic in that it implies that each individual has free will to reject evil, it also implies that the struggle with evil is endless and inescapable and will therefore always be a part of the human condition.