In John Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent, Ethan Allen Hawley, the main character, endures endless amounts of stress and tension in his life. Ethan felt as though he was surrounded in a world where no one respected him, not even his own family. Ethan's social status, cultural factors, and psychological problems, gradually ate away the honesty that was once within him. .
Ethan was a descendant of proud and honorable sea captains who resided in New England. At one time, Ethan's ancestors owned a majority of New Baytown and all of the whaling ships, but all of their wealth came crashing down when Ethan's father made a few bad investments. That left Ethan with hardly any money and a job as a clerk at a grocery store which was once owned by his family. The store was taken over by an Italian immigrant named Alfio Marullo. Ethan's job supplied his family with just enough money to make ends meet, yet this did not satisfy his family. Mary, Ethan's wife, relentlessly wanted more than what she possessed, and she frequently compared their family to others who achieved a higher status in society. Allen, Ethan's son, embodied the perfect example of a deceitful and disrespectful child with low moral standards. The fact that Allen committed the crime of plagiarism in hopes of winning a nation-wide essay contest bothered Ethan, but the thing that pushed Ethan's anger beyond the point of understandable terms was that Allen didn't feel guilty about it until he got caught. That leaves Ellen, Ethan's daughter, who was just a very precocious young lady. Since Ethan's family never seemed contented with what they had, they pressured Ethan into gaining a respectable social acclamation.
The town and its people had high expectations of Ethan's name and heritage. The community anticipated social worth from the Hawley name, but to have social worth, Ethan needed money. New Baytown was awaiting the arrival of progress with the new government leaders coming into office.