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Caillebotte: Planers, 1875 Giclee Print

Planers by Gustave Caillebotte 1875

From its inception of civilization to the present, human communities have always employed the sense of Duty. Duty is loosely translated to obligation, social or familial; an expectation. In is in part “work” and “sacrifice.” Duty is a construct mainly to perpetuate tradition. It takes a person of strong character to break from the bonds of Duty, as there are so many forms of shaming as a result from this rift.

For example, up until the 20th century, and perhaps in some families this idea still persists, the youngest daughter was not to get married. Ever. It was understood, her sole purpose in life was to be her mother’s companion for the rest of her life. It stems from the notion “a son is your son until he gets a wife, but daughter is yours for life,” she will be the one to take care of her aging and infirmed parents. This was her duty. This was the most depressing future and many women rebuked, even Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria’s youngest child actually married. As a compromised lived nearby and to still assisted and  accompanied the Queen in as many things until her death. Beatrice’s husband was counseled on this arrangement prior to the wedding, he had to agree to these terms before he was allowed to enter into holy matrimony with the Queen’s special daughter.

Gentlemen were also expected to work, because surely it was unseemly and emasculating if their wives had to work. A man who could not work, was considered no man at all, by societal terms. This, of course, excludes the aristocracy and landed gentry. It was just the opposite for them. To deign to work was to be demoted class status. As we all know, “reputation is everything” in those days . . . and is still relevant now.

It was a Human Duty to get married. It was inconsequential their sexual orientation, their age, or if love was present. People were expected to get married and create children. Numerous people failed this upmost obligation on various levels, but it did not diminish the overwhelming expectation attached to this act.

Both men and women were supposed to strive to be religious, even if it was for show. Churches would often shame people by proclaiming “it was their Christian Duty” to perform charity or give to the church or what have you. It was not an option to refuse these things and those that did would be sorely weighed come Judgment Day. Other religions use similar methods to keep their own followers on the path of righteousness.

During times of war in United States of America it was the Duty of every available and able bodied male to enlist. Those who dodged the draft, ruined not only their reputations but those of their entire families. Clearly, the boy was not raised properly.

On and on and on Duty calls and it can be expected over the silliest of things. For example, inviting every living blood relative to a wedding by virtue of their blood ties with the bride and groom. Regardless of the wedding budget and the closeness with the honored pair, these people are expecting a wedding invitation and their feelings would be hurt if they were not invited. It does not matter if the bride and groom know a head of time that a certain person would not be able to attend for whatever reason; “‘Tis better to be invited and decline than never to be invited at all.”

Perhaps it is a Duty in some families to receive a college education. It is simply unfathomable not to attend, do well, and graduate with a working degree. It is an overwhelming obligation and some people struggle under the yoke of it. Others shrug it off and make their own way in the world, having broken ties with who raised them as a result of their decision.

If one is solely focused on Duty there is no room for Desire. Either one completes his or her Duty by squashing Desire to do something else, do something more; or they strive for Desire at expense of Duty, enduring the repercussions for the rest their life.

Oh the most frustrating paradox! *waves gloved fist* What Duty do you struggle with?