Moral Disintergration of America Exposed in The Winter of Our Discontent
The Winter of Our Discontent The life of Ethan Allen Hawley, which had for so long held to an irrefutable ethical standard, was about to undergo an unexpected and irreversible change. Likewise he was not alone; progress was descending upon all of New Baytown like the jets which swarmed "with increasing regularity" (196) at the nearby Templeton airfield. With them was coming a new breed, more and more focused on material wealth rather than honesty and principle. Ethan’s fourteen-year old son, Allen, was the embodiment of this new morality by which money was God and "morals are paintings on wall and scruples are money in Russia" (from the movie Sabrina, 1995). There was only one goal for this "forward-looking group" (141): money; and as Allen so clearly states, for them "it’s all dough, no matter how you get it" (91).
Ethan had always believed there existed certain "unchanging rules" (217) of basic kindness and decency which had always, and should always, govern men. He lived his life simply and honestly, guided by visions of his grandfather and Aunt Deborah who had, from his early youth, instilled in him this strong moral foundation; he was" the kid with the built-in judge" (153). The rules, however, were changing, and changing rapidly. No longer would virtue be the deciding factor when faced with temptation; if one stood to gain from a situation, "who gets hurt? Is it against the law?" (34). Quite the contrary, by the new standards, it would be a crime to act on one’s own behalf. Moral consequences were irrelevant; the only consideration was success, and "success is never bad" (239). Those still clinging to Ethan’s "old-fashioned fancy-pants ideas" (43) would be devoured by progress like the old Bay Hotel, "now being wrecked to make room for the new Woolworth’s (11).
Under this new law, business was "a kind of war" (115), and as such, casualties were inevitable. To survive, one had to be ruthless, step on anyone who got in the way; "some men had to get hurt, some even destroyed" (239). Ethan could see this reality, from Baker, who used and manipulated anyone he could if he meant he would profit, to his son, who gladly sacrificed his integrity for a watch an a spot on TV. They were mercenaries, focused only on personal gain, and while Ethan said he"wish[ed he] could admire them, even love them the way . . . Allen [did]" (196), just like the jets these soldiers"only function was killing" (196); their actions left him with "a sick feeling as though [his] soul had an ulcer" (196).
Ethan’s initial response to the corruption which had overtaken New Baytown was to fight the change. He rebelled against Murullo’s idea of "good business" (28)–business that didn’t give credit, that wasn’t kind, and that only looked after...