Duty vs. Desire

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The road to self-actualization is one filled with forks. One must constantly make decisions that affect character and one’s ultimate destination in life. Some travel this road very consciously, making informed and well thought out decisions that they hope will lead them in the right direction. Others live haphazardly, not taking into account the possible consequences of poor decisions. Often times one of the most major forks is a decision between moral obligation and private passion. Pressing matters of family or work may call one to put personal aspirations on hold for the sake of the whole. But does one necessitate abandonment of the other? Which way will lead to a happier life? Tom Wingfield, the disillusioned narrator of Tennessee Williams’ Depression-era play, “The Glass Menagerie,” must battle through this specific plight. He struggles to find the answer to the question of when desire overrides duty.

All humans are blessed with a plethora of gifts, but all have one in common: life. This being said, there is one common humanistic duty: the obligation to live that life in the most satisfying manner in the hopes of reaching fulfillment. However, the individual decides which manner is most pleasing to himself or herself, and one person’s idea of a life well lived is wholly different from another’s. This fact should not be disdained, but embraced. Diversity is what allows for unique and inspirational perspectives that can create new ideas and changes in society and culture. Nevertheless, there are those that do not share this view, which leads to an all-too-common clash of wishes – between parents and children, subordinates and superiors, students and elders, etc. Tom Wingfield conflicts with his mother, Amanda, in this way. Her only wish is that her children, Tom and Laura, fulfill the classic American Dream of hard work and success. However, Tom has dreams of being a writer, and Laura is too painfully shy to even leave the house. Clearly there will be at...
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