Can one think of responsibility as an obstacle – personal responsibility? Are there times when being responsible can hinder a person’s pursuit of their own happiness or gratification? I think so.
The main character (as discerned by yours truly) Tom, both narrator and character, in Tennessee William’s “The Glass Menagerie,” (1270-1313) confronts his sense of responsibility to his mother and sister. They are an impediment to his realizing his dreams. His sense of duty to them holds him prisoner in a slum apartment, whose entry is a fire escape. Really? And dead- end job.
Near the end of the play, Tom ditches his responsibilities and runs away in search of his dreams. Yet in his final assessment he realizes he cannot escape and remains dissatisfied. For Tom, meeting or shirking responsibility left him unfulfilled.
Kessler and Gruber in Malamud’s “The Mourners” (1585-1589), also have found disappointment in their lives relating to their relationship with responsibility. It seems easier to see that with Kessler, shown to us as a dirty, disheveled, slovenly, anti-social character that left his wife and kids and never looked back. He definitely reaped what he sowed didn’t he? Gruber’s conflict with responsibility becomes apparent when Kessler asks him, “What did I do to you?” He bitterly wept. “Who throws out of his house a man that he lived there ten years and pays every month on time his rent? What did I do, tell me” Who hurts a man without reason? Are you a Hitler or a Jew?” (1588) He’s actually pressing Gruber to be a responsible human being, take pity on a fellow man. But Gruber reneges on this responsibility in favor of his responsibility as landlord. Again at the end of the story the two men come to the shared realization that their unhappiness is the result of not meeting their responsibilities.
Does that make any sense? In one instance, Tom, meeting responsibility proves to be a barrier to personal fulfillment but vice versa with Kessler. Maybe; I wonder if maybe the obstacle isn’t responsibility but selfishness- yeah, that makes more sense to me. What do you think?