I'm reading Ethan Frome right now, and it has made me realize how contemporary culture has departed from the beliefs of our predecessors. For better or for worse, these days duty does not preclude pleasure so much. If you're sick of your wife, you get a divorce and grow to new passions. Winter is not a time of deprivation and rationing; we import fruit from Chile and get on with life. And as a woman, you can learn what you want, dance with whomever you choose, live by yourself just fine, thank God.So these books where people wither because of their desire — I have trouble connecting with them. I want to shake the characters by the shoulders and scream, "YOU WANT IT THAT BAD, GO TAKE IT! LIVE! " These people (these shades of people!) are weak if they can't claim their own lives, their own loves. I'd rather read about Orlando, who made for him/herself despite gender. Or Alexander Perchov from Everything is Illuminated, who learns obligation through love and turns that duty into his dream. You see, I'm not so hedonistic that I believe duty has no place. But when it can't be your dream, when you are so controlled by society that your avocation and vocation are split — well then, your mind and your soul can't mate, and you are broken. You destroy yourself, same as an immune system recognizing healthy tissue as hostile and slowly killing its own body. True, under the strictures of society there can be a cost to synthesizing your desire with your reality, but if you cannot struggle toward a happy medium, you may as well be dead.