The Rise of Materialism Exposed in Winter of Our Discontent

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The Rise of Materialism Exposed in Winter of Our Discontent John Steinbeck showed alarm and disapproval to the rise of materialism and the post-World War 2, capitalistic morals found in America during the 1960's. These views were expressed through various characters in his novel The Winter of Our Discontent . This book dealt with the downward spiral of a good man, Ethan Allen Hawley. Pressured on all sides by influences once considered immoral, but now accepted in the 1960's, Ethan, a grocery store clerk from a family of sea captains and wealthy businessmen, "...traded a habit of conduct and attitude for comfort and dignity and a cushion of security" (257). Ethan's son Allen embodies the ideals of the up and coming generation in the 1960's. Growing up in the age of the supermarkets, game show scandals, and fixed traffic tickets, Allen's view of "Something for nothing. Wealth without effort" (91) represented the exact opposite that of his father. Ethan, a man perhaps too concerned with the past, was a character Steinbeck used to speak his voice. Ethan was a man accustomed to honesty, good business, and respect. Allen lived in a world much different than that of Ethan. Allen was raised thinking that being dishonest, immoral, and underhanded was accepted. "Everybody does it. It's the way the cooky crumbles." (353), Allen said when confronted by his father about plagiarizing famous speeches for the "I Love America Contest". The only real opposition came when a person got caught. It almost seemed as if society allowed these illegal actions as long as the person(s) evaded punishment. The only reason Allen seemed upset was because he got caught, not because what he had done was wrong. Steinbeck seemed to show that he felt family history to be very important. Ethan showed great persistence in asking Mr. Baker about the sinking of the Belle-Adair , which Ethan's predecessors felt to have been purposefully burned by the Baker family for the insurance money. Ethan's primary motivation to make a few immoral decisions came from internal pressure he felt to live up to the name of Hawley. He seemed very self-conscience and maybe even ashamed of the fact that he was a lowly grocery clerk, in a foreign owned store, which his family had once owned. Ethan began to hate Mr. Baker when he discovered that the Baker family had used the Hawley's trust in them to gain more land in New Baytown by giving bad investment tips.

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