Let's Talk About Edward
More character insights from All That Is Common To Man
Spoilers ahead for All That Is Common To Man.
Let’s start here…
I mentioned before that while writing the book, I noticed overlap in the 7 deadly sins. They can feel similar to each other in certain ways, and one of the strongest instances of this was between greed and lust, or in terms of our characters, Edward and Lily. Let’s look at the difference.
Edward is the patriarch of the family, a titan in business by any means necessary. We have a fairly narrow view of his life overall, getting only glimpses into his life before Rachel’s passing. But in those snapshots we get the feeling that he can be ruthless and mean, just so long as he gets what he wants. He’s stingy, cheap, and mean. Even with his vast resources, he’s hesitant to give up even a small bit. He’s paranoid in a way, convinced that those around him want to take what’s his.
The quote above summaries Edward’s attitude. Life is a zero-sum game. Winning isn’t enough for Edward. Someone else has to lose. His world is made of finite resources and it’s his life’s work to snatch up as much as possible for himself.
Lust, for all the downsides it has, at least allows for the possible pleasure of another. While it doesn’t put someone other than itself as a priority, it also doesn’t actively seek to hurt. But greed isn’t like that. Like lust, greed has a strong desire for something and is willing to do anything to acquire it, but it also wants it at the expense of another. It seeks to take what it wants by hurting someone. Lust can be selfish, but greed is cruel.
I noticed this the most when writing the scene where Lily announces she wants to leave the house. Lily realizes she needs to get away to save her own life, and Edward sees this as an insult. Edward lays it out plainly for her: Leave the house, leave the family, and all my support stops.
I tried to illustrate this in how Edward views his daughter. Consider the following:
“Edward looked hard at his daughter, examining her, and in doing so, saw a reflection of himself. In many ways, she mirrored his own ambitions and desires.”
“Lily was similar in that she chased what she wanted almost single-mindedly, but she lacked one crucial component, the key that guaranteed his success.”
“While there was something fierce there, it hadn’t developed into maturity yet. She still lacked the killer instinct that he possessed. Given enough time, and pain, it might grow into something she could work with.”
Edward isn’t blind to his nastiness, but it causes him no guilt. In fact, he views this as strength. In his mind, he’s only done what’s necessary, and those who he’s taken from are weak. They deserve the pain because that’s the way the world works. There are winners and losers. Zero Sum. Eat or be eaten.
It’s not that lust causes no damage. After all, Lily did destroy a marriage. There’s real hurt, possibly beyond repair, as a result of her choices. But it’s the difference in motivation. She wanted something for herself, and while she was willing to accept it might cause someone pain, that wasn’t a driving factor. Edward seems different. I’m not convinced that money earned without that corresponding pain would be as sweet to him.
But what does this get him? He’s sick and weak. The example he’s set for his children is coming back to haunt him, and the pills meant to keep him comfortable are being snatched from him. His rant early in the book about his medicine being placebos is strangely accurate. He’s now at the mercy of those who have never received such mercy from him. They’ve never had unconditional love modeled, or generosity, or kindness.
And what sort of end should a person like this expect to find?