The Winter of Our Discontent, by John Steinbeck, 1996 ed.

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The Winter of Our Discontent, by John Steinbeck, 1996 ed. Within each action, man places his own self-interest. The morals of this are continuously questioned, and throughout The Winter of Our Discontent, Steinbeck explores both the traditional, Christian view and the natural view of the world and its corruption. He shows how Ethan Allen's life was that of a Christian, when he followed his morals, was very passive and generous, and even suffered and was a victim of betrayal. However, Steinbeck also shows that nature can take hold of a man, when Ethan's animalistic instincts and moral conflicts arise. With these, I feel Steinbeck is saying that although Christianity is the traditional way of moral thought, the natural processes come first in allowing Ethan and every human to make the proper decisions necessary for survival. Both views, the moral and amoral ways of thought, work inside of each person to control their actions and behaviors. To understand the views Steinbeck explores, we must first understand morality. Morals are beliefs that a person or a society has on the difference between right and wrong. Sometimes, the morals of an individual and the society they live in will clash, and so begins a struggle to survive with an internal conflict. With this in mind, it could be said that morals are simply a belief in an opinion, which leads to a battle of the weak versus the strong. Those with stronger moral judgments or even that of a larger population will most likely win against the beliefs of a smaller group or individual. In cases like these, some people will change their morals to fit those of the majority, or the society. Ethan questions this, and the motives behind each acceptance of a wrongful action. He found that "to most of the world success is never bad…Strength and success – they are above morality, above criticism" (187). If this is the case, then morals could change based upon the need to be a part of the winning side. The question then arises, whether morality is truly a battle of beliefs, such as with Christianity, or just of weak versus strong, winner versus loser, with an animalistic approach.

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