In The Winter of Our Discontent, Steinbeck shows many conflicts in the society in which the protagonist, Ethan Allen Hawley lives. Ethan is often forced to survive in a world where the will of his own often goes against and deals with the will of the majority.
Ethan himself who has been raised as an honest, respectful man is somehow feeling a "discontent" with himself. He feels as if the world is changing and is leaving him behind. As Ethan walks to work as he does everyday, he notices that an old hotel that has been there from the beginning of time, is being town down and is being replaced with a chain store. This to him seems like corporations are taking over and that everyone would rather prefer bigger than personal. He states that the bulldozer and cranes "were silent like waiting predators in the early morning". This shows the present world with its massive companies and new ways as predatory and the old ways as its prey.
Apparently, if the old does not soon adapt then it will soon succumb and be overtaken by the new.
Poor Ethan also finds problem regarding his work. The Hawleys, once one of the most prominent families in New Baytown, owing at least half of the town's land, now find themselves average or perhaps below average, due to Ethan's father's financial inabilities. Ethan later finds himself providing his family with a minimum income paid by an immigrant boss who bought Ethan's own store from his father in order of not losing it, working as a grocery clerk. This factor leads to Ethan's pity party for himself, and how rich he wishes he were, this is where the greed sets in. These thoughts were kindled and fed like fire by those around...