Third: When every man wants justice, why does he go on creating injustice?
God sits watching the sleeping Adam and his family. They have built a crude shelter and there is evidence that they have learned to cook their food. God is unhappy because apparently his people have forgotten him, scarcely ever mentioning or thinking about, let alone praising, their creator. God orders Azrael to blow visions of death into the minds of the sleeping family, so that in their fear they may turn to thoughts of God.
God departs and Lucifer enters. He sees how content Eve has become with her life; he fears that “they’ll turn the whole Earth into this smug suburb of Heaven!” Cain is jealous of Abel, Lucifer knows, and when he sees Azrael come and do as he was ordered, Lucifer figures that God must be setting his people up for a murder. As the family awakens, Lucifer watches them closely to find an opening for thwarting God’s will, perhaps avoiding the murder.
Adam and his family are shuddering with their nightmare of death; they have dreamed that Abel was lying dead in his blood (Abel has dreamed that an angel kissed him). Cain questions his father about his reasons for leaving the garden, about what God expects of them all, about why Cain is the farmer and Abel the shepherd.
ABEL: If you think he wants me to farm, I’ll be glad to switch.
CAIN (to Adam with a laugh): He’s going to farm!
ADAM (laughing): God help us!
ABEL (protesting): Why?
CAIN: With your sense of responsibility, we’d be eating thistle soup!
EVE (touching Abel): He’s just more imaginative.
LUCIFER: Will you just shut up!
ABEL: Have I ever lost a sheep?
CAIN: How could you lose them? They always end up in my corn.
ABEL: Cain, that only happened once!
CAIN (with raw indignation): Go out there and sweat the way I do and tell me it
only happened once!
EVE: He’s just younger!
CAIN: And I’m older, and I’ll be damned if I plant another crop until he fences
LUCIFER: Stop this!
EVE (to Adam): Stop this!
CAIN: Why must you always take his side?
EVE: But how can he build a fence?
CAIN: The same way I plant a crop, Mother! By bending his back! Abel, I’m
warning you, if you ever again—
ADAM: Boys, boys!
ABEL (turning away): If he wants a fence, I think he should build it.
CAIN: I should build it! Are the corn eating the sheep or are the sheep
eating the corn?
ABEL: It’s not natural for me to build a fence.
CAIN: Not natural! You’ve been talking to God lately?
ABEL: I don’t know anything about God. But it’s the nature of sheep to move
around, and it’s the nature of corn to stay in one place. So the fence
should fence the thing that stays in one place and not the thing that
ADAM: That’s logical, Cain.
CAIN: In other words, the work belongs to me and the whole wide world belongs
ADAM (at a loss): No, that’s not fair either.
ABEL (angering, to Adam): Well, I can’t fence the mountains, can I? I can’t
fence the rivers where they go to drink. (To Cain) I know you work
harder, Cain, but I didn’t decide that. I’ve even thought sometimes that it
is unfair, and maybe we should change places for awhile—
CAIN: You wouldn’t last a week.
ABEL (crying out): Then what am I supposed to do?
Cain is close, staring into his face, a tortured expression in his eyes which puzzles
Why is he looking like that?
Suddenly Cain embraces Abel, hugging him close.
Adam orders the brothers to shake hands. Lucifer thinks he has overcome God’s will, but suddenly there are portents like a snake dropped in the family’s midst and the howling of coyotes. Adam believes something crucial is taking place. He and Eve agree that the time has come to tell their sons the truth about the Garden; about eating the apple and discovering each other’s nakedness.
Cain is shocked by the story of his parents’ behavior and decides, “We’ve been saying all the wrong prayers. We shouldn’t be thanking God – we should be begging his forgiveness. We’ve been living as though we were innocent. We’ve been living as though we were blessed! We are cursed, Mother!”
Adam admits that they are under God’s curse; they are condemned to die, like the animals. Cain insists that they must pray. He falls on his knees and begs God’s forgiveness, beseeching him to restore their innocence. Abel does not take the prayer seriously. Lucifer makes his presence known to Abel and advises him to build the fence, because he is the better loved of the two. Cain, inconsolably jealous, is dangerous.
Reluctantly, Abel agrees to build the fence. Cain demands that he do it in a pasture far from this home place. Again Lucifer persuades Abel to agree. Eve protests that it is too far away and accuses Cain of trying to humiliate Abel.
Cain picks up a boulder and places it on top of another one, preparing an altar for sacrifice to the Lord. Following Adam’s advice, Cain goes to fetch the best of his crop, to present to God on the altar, to lure him down from Heaven to hear their pleas. Adam studies Cain’s offering and tells his son: “This looks absolutely beautiful, Cain. Now, when you see his face, regard the right eye. Because that’s the one he loves you with. The left one squints, y’see, because that’s the one he judges with. So watch the right eye and don’t be frightened.”
Eve suggests that Abel ought to make an offering, too, and Lucifer warns Abel, “Under no circumstances must you get into this competition.” Abel ignores this advice and goes to slaughter a lamb.
When Adam smears the lamb’s blood on his hand and offers the sacrifice to the Lord, Lucifer appears before them as a man with a bull’s head, pretending that he is God come to restore their innocence and deliver them from sin and guilt forever. Adam sees clearly that this is the Devil, not God. Eve is willing to accept the Devil as her lord because he brings her happiness, whereas God has visited her only with sin and pain. She exhorts her sons to love each other; she dances with Lucifer and teaches her sons to join the dance. Cain’s emotion while dancing with his mother reaches a frenzied pitch; he pulls her to the ground and climbs on top of her. Eve is astonished but compliant, Adam roars with anger, Lucifer is triumphant, as God appears. Lucifer mocks him: “May I introduce you to mankind? I don’t believe I need labor the point – to the naked eye how pious and Godfearing they were; but with a moment’s instruction and the right kind of music, a bear would blush at their morality. Dear Father, what are we fighting about? Truly, Lord, what is Man beyond his appetite?”
Once again Lucifer offers to “take his place” but God turns to the sacrifices on the altar, tastes them. He praises Cain’s onion lightly but Abel’s meat highly. It was Cain’s idea to sacrifice to the Lord, but it is Abel who has most pleased God and provided the family with what Adam calls its “proudest moment” and who receives his mother’s congratulatory kiss. God has neglected even to try Cain’s corn – produced with so much labor – or his wine. God strolls off with the others, as Cain, now alone with Lucifer, kicks over the altar in his rage and humiliation.
CAIN: Devil, now Cain starts to live!
He starts throwing everything out of the shelter.
LUCIFER: What’s this, now?
CAIN: This is my house! Mine! (He faces Lucifer.) No one enters here but Cain any
more. They have God, and I have this farm – and before I’m finished, my
fences will stretch out to cover the Earth!
LUCIFER: Adam will never agree to leave this house –
CAIN: Oh, he’ll agree, all right – (He strides to his flail and brandishes it.) once I
explain it to him! (He whips the flail with a whoosh and holds it up.) There’s
the only wisdom I will ever need again!(A deep hum sounds in the Earth, like a
LUCIFER: Listen! (Cain freezes.) He has set a moaning in the Earth. (Daylight
changes to night, stars appear.) Look! (Both look up at the night sky.) He is
giving you a night at noon, darkening your mind to kill for him!
Frightened, Cain turns from the sky to the flail in his hand and throws it down
Don’t let him use you. Go away. Hide yourself.
CAIN: I, hide? I was the one who thought of the offerings; from me this Sabbath
came! Let them hide! I want nothing from anyone any more!
LUCIFER: But God wants a murder from you.
CAIN (astonished): God. . . wants. . .?
LUCIFER: He’s boiling your blood in his hand. He has designed your vengeance,
CAIN: But why?
LUCIFER: So he may stand above your crime, the blameless God, the only assurance
of Mankind, and his power is safe. Come now, we’ll hide you till this anger’s
It is too late – Abel’s voice is heard calling for Cain, who is still trying to understand why Abel should be the favorite of all, even God, when he, Cain, has everywhere made the greatest contribution. Abel calls again for Cain to come and join the others at God’s feet. Instead, Cain orders Abel to leave the farm with Adam and Eve and picks up his flail. Cain warns Abel to run, exhorts God to save them all, then finally strikes Abel down.
God enters with Adam and Eve, who are shocked at the sight of Abel’s corpse.
GOD: What hast thou done!
CAIN (with a bitter, hard grin, plus a certain intimate, familiar tone): What had to
be done. As the Lord surely knew when I laid before him the fruit of my
sweat – for which there was only thy contempt.
GOD: But why contempt? Didn’t I approve of your offering?
CAIN: As I would “approve” my ox. Abel’s lamb was not “approved,” it was
adored, like his life!
GOD (indignantly): But I like lamb! (Cain is dumbfounded.) I don’t deny it. I like
lamb better than onions.
LUCIFER: Surely there can be no accounting for taste.
CAIN: And this is your justice?
CAIN (with a bitter laugh): Yes, justice! Justice!
GOD: When have I ever spoken that word?
CAIN: You mean our worth and value are a question of taste?
GOD (incredulously): But Cain, there are eagles and sparrows, lions and mice –
is every bird to be an eagle? Are there to be no mice? Let a man do well,
and he shall be accepted.
CAIN: I have done well and I am humiliated!
Eve urges Adam to revenge Abel by killing Cain. God bids Cain repent, and Lucifer intervenes: why should Cain repent an act which God had planned from the beginning? God argues that if man is to take the place intended for him he must rise above bestiality, “choose the way of life, not death.” God, seeing both piety and envy in Cain’s heart, tested him, hoping that Cain would throw down his weapon for love of God and Abel. In testing Cain, God was trying to exalt mankind.
Eve does not understand why a test should have taken Abel’s life. She wishes God would leave them alone to “just live” (though God reminds her that without God anger will inevitably lead to murder). God himself is now angry, feeling rejected, and ready to leave the world to the Devil. Lucifer protests; he can’t manage the world alone, he can’t create anything, he is only, as God points out, “a superb critic.”
Eve detains God by asking him what she is supposed to do about Cain. She can’t live in the same family with him any more; in fact she realizes she can’t “just live” without God, without a sense of right and wrong. Lucifer’s permissiveness is not enough to live by. She cannot adjust her feelings to a guiltless Cain.
In Eve’s attitude Lucifer sees mirrored the defeat of all his hopes to become a sort of God. God rubs in Lucifer’s defeat: “You will never be God. And not because I forbid it, but because they will never – at least for very long – believe it. For I made them not of dust alone, but dust and love; and by dust alone they will not, cannot long be governed. (Lucifer bursts into sobbing tears.) Why do you weep, angel? They love, and with love, kill brothers. Take heart, I see now that our war goes on.”
God sentences Cain to live as an outcast, despised as a murderer by his fellow human beings; but God will put a mark on Cain to protect him from being harmed.
GOD (holding two index fingers pointed toward Cain’s face): Come to me, my son.
Terrified, Cain comes up to his fingers, and he comes around behind Cain, who is
facing front, and presses his cheeks, forming a smile which Cain cannot relax.
God lowers his fingers.
CAIN (smiling): What is the mark?
GOD: That smile is.
CAIN: But they will know that I killed by brother!
GOD: Yes, they will know, and you will smile forever with agony in your eyes –
the sundered mark of Cain who killed for pride and power in the name
Smiling, his eyes desperate, Cain turns to Eve. She cries out, hides
her face in her hands. He tears at his cheeks, but his smile remains.
He lowers his hands – a smiling man with astonished, terrifying eyes.
Adam? Eve? Now the way of life is revealed before you, and the way of
death. Seek me only in your hearts, you will never see my face again.
God vanishes among the stars. Lucifer makes no immediate effort to take his place; in his turn, Lucifer walks off into darkness, after promising pointedly to return any time they call for him.
Cain asks his parents’ forgiveness, but Eve cannot give it to a son who does not even weep for the brother he has just murdered.
CAIN: How will I weep? You never loved Cain!
ADAM: Spare one another!
EVE (turning to the corpse): I loved him more. (To Cain) Yes, more than you.
And God was not fair. To me, either. (Indicating Abel) And I still don’t
understand why he had to die, or who or what rules this world. But this
boy was innocent – that I know. And you killed him, and with him any
claim to justice you ever had.
CAIN: I am not to blame!
EVE: Are you telling me that nothing happened here? I will not sit with you as
though nothing happened!
ADAM: Ask her pardon! (Cain turns away from both.) Cain, we are surrounded
by the beasts! And God’s not coming anymore – (Cain starts away.) Boy,
we are all that’s left responsible! – ask her pardon! (Cain, adamant, the
smile fixed on his face, walks out.) Call to him. Pardon him. In God’s
name cry mercy, Eve, there is no other!
With his arm around her he has drawn her to the periphery, where she stands,
her mouth open, struggling to speak. But she cannot, and she breaks into
weeping. As though in her name, Adam calls toward the departed Cain.
The roars, songs, and cries of the animals fill the air. Adam looks up and about,
and to the world, a clear-eyed prayer.