Wednesday, November 13, 2019

A Race for Rats in The Winter of Our Discontent Essay -- Winter of Our

A Race for Rats in The Winter of Our Discontent Some runners look only to the finish line, choosing to ignore what they step on or who they pass along the way. In The Winter of Our Discontent, Steinbeck portrays the dawning of a selfish American society concerned solely with winning personal races. Set in a small New England town during the early sixties, the story focuses on the life of Ethan Allen Hawley, an intelligent man with prestigious family history who is employed as a grocer to the dismay of members of his family and the community. At the beginning of the novel, Ethan had not yet adopted the new religion of America, to "look after number one" (26,291) in order to gain money and social standing. However, as the story transpires, Ethan, like other characters, chooses to succumb to temptation and to put himself above others as all costs, as though focusing on a shiny red, white and blue finish. Ethan’s downfall represents America’s loss of family, social, and moral values as individual success becomes all-impo rtant. The Hawleys’ conflicts typify the breaking down of the American family as selfish desires distance each member from the family unit. Ethan and his wife, Mary, pursue different goals in life and lack communication. Unlike Ethan, Mary "dreamed of good fortune†¦" (46). Ashamed of her husband’s job, she tells Ethan "A grand gentlemen without money is a bum" (43) in one of the few arguments the couple have. Often, Ethan and Mary avoid confrontation by acting silly because they accept the separation in their marriage. Ethan admits, "so many things I don’t know about my Mary, and among them, how much she knows about me." (56) Because they’d rather chase their own goals instead of meeting in the middle, ... ...eal to rob a bank where his friend, Morph is employed (284). His greed inspires him to plot several money-making schemes, unstoppable until he has more than enough money, and his lust pushes him to Margie’s house one evening (341). Ethan becomes "possessed" (99) with the new values of American and drops his morals on the sideline. After his possession, Ethan commits selfish act after selfish act until the close of the novel when he chooses not to kill himself in order to save his daughter (358). Ethan knows he’s been running in a rat’s race. America’s new obsession with "taking care of number one" at any cost sacrifices family, social and moral values that are priceless. Selfishness makes for a lonely America in which each person is so blinded by his own goals that he cannot become close to anyone else. Those who choose not to run that race win their souls.

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