Throughout the course of history, the human race has debated on whether or not, as an individual you have a responsibility towards society. First, it is necessary to understand that being a part of society is a privilege. With any privilege comes responsibility, which could be obtaining your driver’s license and having a responsibility towards your personal safety as well as the safety of others while driving. Another example is as simple as your parents letting you out of the house on a Friday night and making the decision on whether to drink or not to drink. As an individual, you have a responsibility to contribute to the betterment of society. If everyone were only looking out for himself or herself we would be a country of selfish narcissists, and the society’s growth would stagnate. As an individual myself, I have come to realize that there are innumerable amounts of things that allow us to contribute to society as a whole. A specific ethical obligation that young adults all across the world have is the option to educate oneself.
We educate ourselves in order to make good decisions, succeed financially, and if needed come to the aid of family, neighbor and country in times of hardship. It is a fact that everyone at some point provides public service whether it is national defense, jury duty, obeying laws, or doing the research to cast an educated vote along with many other things. We are society and by our choices we form what type of society we live in. In result, we have a responsibility towards said society, whether our responsibility is morally economically, or ethically. Looking inside the book Ethan Frome written by Edith Wharton, you find yourself struck by a saddening realization of an individual being abruptly hit with an ethical/moral responsibility toward her family. Ethan Frome struggles to make a living as a farmer near the bleak Massachusetts town of Starkfield.
“’Most of the smart ones get away,’ but if that were the case, how could any combination of obstacles have hindered the flight of a man like Ethan Frome” (Prologue). His wife Zeena whines and complains about her imaginary ailments. When Zeena’s penniless cousin, Mattie Silver, a sweet and cheerful young woman, comes to live with the couple, the growing friendship between Ethan and Mattie arouses Zeena’s jealousy. In result, she evicts Mattie from the house. As they are about to part, Ethan and Mattie take a sled ride down the big hill near town. In despair now and aware of their love for each other, they decide to end their lives by crashing the sled. Instead they are both left crippled for life.
At the end of the story, the original roles have changed. Ethan is deformed, hopeless, and poorer than ever, and Mattie is now the helpless invalid. Caring for them both, presiding over their wrecked lives is Zeena. In this novel you see that Zeena is now stuck with a responsibility towards society to take care of her husband whether she was prepared or not, “Prisoner for life, and now his one ray of light was to be extinguished,” (Ch. 8). This goes to show you that our social obligations can change at any moment of our lives. At this point in Zeena’s life, she chose that she had a moral responsibility towards society, in short, taking care of her husband.
As a person living in a society, did I ever sign a social contract stating that I would show responsibility towards the society I live in? The answer is no. Although, by living in society and obeying its rules I do abide by an unspoken contract that I will show responsibility towards society. Because, as an individual I benefit from society which is reason enough to give back to society. People ask “how would this hypothetical contract bind us?”
You vote, you have not moved to another country, and you drive on the roads, all meaning you accept the social contract. In other words, by the mere fact that you are alive, you have a duty to society. In the novel Ethan Frome, one may blame karma for Zeena’s misfortune, but after what I have learned, I believe that this burdened lifestyle was caused by her inescapable opinion that as an individual, you morally have a responsibility towards society. In conclusion, as an individual you have a responsibility to society based upon your moral, ethical, and economical beliefs.