This novel portrays how destructive and obsessive revenge can be. As in the biblical tale, this story pits a man named Kane against one named Abel. Because of a misunderstanding, the two become enemies, although they later learn that they unknowingly aided one another through the years. The enmity that they feel robs them of the joy and love of their children. Archer emphasizes how destructive the need for revenge can be when he has his two characters cast out their beloved children rather than befriend one another. Kane dies before he ever gets to meet his grandchildren, while Abel isolates himself from his daughter, the only person he truly loves.
A second theme dominating the story illustrates how powerful ambition can be when it is fueled by diligence and perseverance. Abel, and later his daughter Florentyna, are presented to the reader as models to emulate. They achieve their goals through intelligence and hard work. At the same time they are charitable. Archer seems to suggest that those who work hard and deserve to succeed will do so. Although this seems unrealistically idealistic, it is poetically just.