Socioeconomic Hardship and the Redemptive Hope of Nature in John Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent

by Linda Ciritovic

Institution: Cleveland State University
Department: College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
Degree: MAin English
Year: 2015
Keywords: American Literature; Ethics; Pedagogy; Personal Relationships; Religion; Ecology; Economics; Steinbeck, John; Winter of Our Discontent; Shakespeare, William; Tragedy of King Richard III; nature; socioeconomics; redemption; hardship; pedagogy; Danny Taylor; Richard Walder; Christianity; parenting; virtue; greed; ecocriticism; humanity
Record ID: 2061053
Full text PDF: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=csu1430661081


Ethan Allen Hawley receives the gift of redemption throughout John Steinbeck’s The Winter of Our Discontent (1961). Many forms of redemption occur throughout the novel, but Steinbeck does not blatantly present all of them. Raymond L. Griffith’s 1972 dissertation uses the term “duality” to discuss, as stated, the “validity of perfection and the impossibility of perfection” contained in Steinbeck’s works. My thesis specifically uses the term duality to explicate the various “hardship versus redemption” dualities that exist in Winter. Ethan lives a life of duality throughout the majority of the novel. Ethan’s dual lives involve his behavior and rationale while in nature settings and his behavior and rationale while in socioeconomic settings. Ethan experiences this duality but never acknowledges this duality of place. Other “hardship versus redemption” dualities exist in the novel, such as Ethan receiving his grandfather’s and aunt’s teachings and then Ethan teaching his own children; Ethan’s brotherly encounters; Steinbeck’s inclusion of Christian ideas; and Steinbeck’s correlation to and also divergence from William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of King Richard the Third. Ethan’s duality of place finally unites at the novel’s conclusion. Ethan’s secret Place in nature induces a confrontation with reality and a humanistic response to socioeconomic hardship. Steinbeck concludes the novel with the subtle assertion of the redemptive hope of nature to induce strength.