There is a great deal of controversy over whether or not people are born evil, or if they choose it; do people have an unalterable, predisposed life or are they shaped by the environment surrounding them? The popular idea is that once someone sins, they are, and will always be a sinner. However, John Steinbeck, author of East of Eden, addresses this discourse with a very different perspective. Although many people believe that evilness is an irreversible concept, Steinbeck believes that even though someone can inherent evil qualities, they ultimately have the opportunity to choose between good and evil. Steinbeck sees this as one of the most important abilities humans have, and strongly emphasizes it in his novel. Throughout East of Eden, Steinbeck uses a multitude of biblical allusions in order to convey the struggle of choosing between good and evil. .
Steinbeck presents the opposing forces of good and evil primarily through use of the characters in the novel. In each family of characters there are "good" characters and "bad" characters. Since the novel focuses on various families, Steinbeck is able to show these differences repeatedly. Steinbeck also organizes them in such a way that the good or bad in each character clearly evident. Although their actions throughout the novel essentially show whether they are good or evil, the characters' similarities to figures in the bible is suggests their nature. The story of Cain and Abel is especially prominent in the entirety of East of Eden (Murray n. pag). This story connects with each pair of characters. Even without being familiar with the story of Cain and Abel, the reader can clearly see a trend arising just from the names of the characters. The majority of the names begin with either the letter "C" or the letter "A" (Contemporary Books and Poetry n.pag). The characters' whose name begins with "C" will expectedly adopt the same qualities as Cain, and the characters' whose name begins with "A" will adopt those of Able.