I’ve spent the morning researching the tradition of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4) in literature, so thought I’d share an image drawn from one particular afterlife of this biblical story that particularly caught my eye. François-Nicolas Chifflart’s stunning painting La Conscience portrays a scene from Victor Hugo’s poem of the same name (read it here). The poem traces the long and desperate flight of Cain with his family after he has murdered his brother Abel; in particular, we see his fruitless and increasingly desperate attempts to escape the wrath of the deity. Yet, despite his best efforts, there will be no peace for Cain; for, he is followed wherever he goes by the ‘Eye of God’, its oppressive presence ensuring his continued torment and terror. A symbol perhaps of his guilty conscience, the divine eye is even there after Cain seals himself in an underground tomb, “As a lone man within his sepulchre.” The tone of the poem is one of gut-gnawing anxiety, as we run alongside the increasingly desperate Cain on his search for asylum. And, going by the image Chifflart presents us with, we can all too easily understand his terror and, perhaps, even sympathise with him.