Aron’s death completes the Cain-Abel story for Cal and Aron and leaves Cal in a misery of guilt and self-recrimination. Lee, however, advises Cal with a message of sense and optimism, saying that Cal should remember that he is simply a flawed human being, not a monster of evil like his mother. By giving this advice, Lee gently works to undermine the sense of moral determinism that has pervaded the novel and the Trask family since the start—the idea that people are doomed to act out the characteristics with which they are born. Lee’s advice to Cal provides a load-lightening affirmation that timshel, the freedom to choose between good and evil,really exists.

Adam’s final blessing of Cal represents a supreme moment of redemption both for Cal, who can now move beyond his guilt into a happier life with Abra, and for Adam, who makes up for the hurt he has caused Cal by preferring Aron. With Cathy and Aron gone, moral extremism—toward evil in Cathy’s case, toward good in Aron’s case—no longer dominates the Trask family. Rather than having a choice between only two extreme paths, Cal now has the freedom to resolve his inner moral conflict by taking a middle road. The optimism of the novel’s conclusion—as spring approaches and Lee plans to plant a garden—leads us to believe that Cal at last fully understands what timshel means and that he can overcome the agony of the past. Just as Cain kills Abel in the Bible, Cal commits sin and indirectly causes Aron’s death—but this time, with his father’s blessing, Cain confronts the sins of his fathers and is redeemed.