Man has been around for many, many thousands of years, fighting beast, nature and himself. In this never-ending battle he has two choices, good or evil. Each leads down its own path into the unknown. In East of Eden by John Steinbeck this conflict is played out again and again. He depicts two different paths but ultimately the same ending, death. "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 an evil" (413). This event is something that takes place every day in everybody's lives. The thing that makes this story so compelling is that good and evil, a universal struggle, is something everyone has to deal with. However, they have the power to choose what side they take because of a simple word, timshel. .
The story of Adam and Charles Trask was the first representation of Cain and Abel, of good and evil. The fact that they were half-brothers made them even more different. With Adam drawing comparison to Abel and Charles to Cain, it was only a matter of time before a conflict arose. The major one was Cyrus" birthday gifts, which is also a link to Cain and Abel's offerings to the Lord. The same outcome came out of both of these, violence. Charles was angry, just like Cain, that his gift was rejected. Charles just could not understand why his present was not as good. He attempted to kill Adam, but without success. Charles had an interesting dependence on Adam. He was depressed whenever he was not around, but always angry when he was. The notion that evil cannot survive without good, that the two are actually reliant on one another, is a subject that is brought up with Adam and Charles.
Another major theme between the two brothers is the issue of money and its representation of original sin. Charles places value upon money and accumulates a small fortune within his lifetime.