The Winter Of Our Discontent Analysis

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The Devolution of a Man The Winter of Our Discontent, by John Steinbeck, centers around Ethan Allen Hawley, a grocery clerk who progresses as a much more intricate character than he initially appears. The Hawleys were once a prominent family in New Baytown, but they lost their wealth through a series of unfortunate events. As a result of this downfall, Ethan and his family suffer both financially and socioeconomically; the Hawley name may historically carry influence in New Baytown but it is only a matter of time before they are completely excluded from the wealthy class. Although Ethan lives in discontent with his circumstances, he elects not to actively pursue to regain wealth for his family. Ethan purposely does not succumb to fraudulent …show more content…

In a matter of months, he successfully gains ownership to the grocery store and obtains the deed to Danny’s valuable land. With the exception of living with the guilt of what he did to Marullo and Danny, Ethan nearly walks away from the situation unscathed. However, when he learns that Allen cheated in order to win honorable mention in the essay contest, Ethan’s world comes crashing down in front of him. Ethan had observed his own decline and accepted his lack of morality; he had convinced himself that he was operating similarly to everyone else in New Baytown. However, after observing Allen discuss corruption by saying, “Who cares? Everybody does it. It’s the way the cooky [sic] crumbles,” (276) Ethan realizes his excuses were not a satisfactory solution to the crimes he committed. When describing his own morals, Ethan knows his “light is out,” and that “There’s nothing blacker than a wick,” (279). He fully prepares to end his life in the Place and grabs a pack of razors. However, something stops Ethan. As someone who decayed as a result of the society surrounding him, Ethan comprehends that he can still serve a purpose greater than himself by helping his daughter Ellen avoid the same mistakes. This shot at redemption provides renewed purpose and energy for Ethan. Although his wick has been blackened by his actions, he embraces the capacity to provide some good in the world. As he trudges against the powerful waves of the Place, Ethan is determined to prevent Ellen from succumbing to the same pressures of society that he fell victim to. He knows he must “return the talisman to its new owner. Else another light might go out,”

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