The Cain in All of Us

Yesterday my father (Leland Ryken, Professor of English, Wheaton College) sent me a thought-provoking exchange from John Steinbeck's East of Eden:

"If a story is not about the hearer he will not listen. And I here make a rule--a great and lasting story is about eveyrone or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting--only the deeply personal and familiar."

"Apply that to the Cain-Abel story."

"I think I can. I think this is the best-known story int he world because it is everybody's story. I think it is the symbol story of the human soul. . . . The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved. . . . I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt--and there is the story of makind. . . . Therefore I think this old and terrible story is important because it is a chart of the soul--the secret, rejected, guilty soul."


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