Man is a complex creature, as compared to other living organisms that has walked the earth. He is able to act and cooperate with other people in order to create or do something productive. He is gifted with a rational mind which enables him to make rational judgment and decisions in his everyday life. He was blessed with emotions that enable them to express what they feel, show their appreciation or disgust. Man is complex creature such that he is able to believe something that he doesn’t see or he has no proof of its reality. He believes in myths about how he should act or react about something, thus setting it as a standard or as a norm in life.
Looking at man and woman, man is said to be the more myth-believer than the woman. Man, an egoistic creature believes and values a lot of things, including abstract principles like chivalry, his big ego and his responsibilities in his life. Males, which generally see themselves, stronger than the females, often take much of the responsibilities especially when it comes to his family.
It is common to see fathers who choose to work away from the family so that they will be able to supply the needs of his families. Men may consider themselves as superior to women, yet they compensate this claim by shouldering the hard work not because they like to do so, but because they are compelled to do so, as dictated by their beliefs and personal myths. Men choose to take these responsibilities not because they feel superior, but because of the fact that they are men. Even though men think this way they don’t lack fear and respect for women.
In Theodore Dreiser’s short story, he pictured the main character, Rufus Haymaker, as man who has it all when it comes to material things. He lives a wealthy lifestyle, a good job, a house, doesn’t go hungry, everything that a man would strive for in his life. But then, Rufus Haymaker is not a happy man. He may have every material thing that a man may wish, but he lacks happiness. He is not fulfilled, not having lived his life to the fullest. Rufus Haymaker can be considered just like any other person in this world, someone who lacks will power and strength to decide for themselves, thus oftentimes regretting the way things in his life are going.
Rufus Haymaker’s life is a typical rags-to-riches story. Because of poverty, he was driven and forced to go out and face the world. In his own, he was able to return a different man, yet he still thinks that there was really no change that happened. This resulted to suffering and mental torment, leaving him with the dilemma between duty and desire. Rufus’ situation is a common myth in men. He would strive hard in order to prove something, in order to excel, yet, in the end; he doesn’t realize that he already has proven something.
He gets so engrossed with work because of his goals, he tends to forget his real reason why is working hard. In the end, he would grow old not knowing that he already met his goal, thus continuing to work hard for it. He wasn’t able to live his life to the fullest, because of his sacrifice and obedience to conventions, duty and moral order; he has lived an unfulfilled life. Rufus Haymaker already had it all, but because of moral restraints, his moral choice, he has lived an empty life. Rufus Haymaker was held back by his moral choice, because he chose to stick with the norms. He followed obediently, without knowing that it cost him his freedom and happiness.
In this story, Rufus Haymaker has a wife. This is another manifestation of his loyalty and obedience to the norms. At that time, the concept of “one life, one love” was the norm being followed (Vaz). This became a restraint to Rufus life. He is pretending to be enjoying his life with his wife, but the reality is that he hates every moment of it, that her illness gave him a spark of hope. Her possible death gave Rufus another chance to be free; the moment his wife is gone, his attachment to the norm would be gone also, because she will be dead.
The concept of one love is already nullified with death. Rufus’ lived a life at a time when people are bound to conventions, thus keeping them attached to their duty as a person, their beliefs where in they believe that following it means living a healthy life. Because of that, these beliefs hindered them from enjoying the real meaning of life, of being free, of seizing the day while it lasts! For Rufus Haymaker, there was this feeling of satisfaction with the idea that she is going to die, because in his marriage, he was looking for love and happiness, but with his wife, he never had it. But because of the norm, he remained bounded to his wife, and suffered emotionally.
To wrap it up, Rufus Haymaker achieved the freedom he longed for so many years. But ironically, he did achieve his freedom, yet it didn’t make him happy. He found out that he was to old for the life that he was craving, and it was too late for him to recover. His great attachment with the myths and norms made him forget about time, that he was already growing old while waiting for the moment he could be free. Rufus Haymaker, the man who wished that his wife never recover from her illness, will never be happy with the freedom that he was able to get with his wife’s death. It was to late for him, because he didn’t seize the opportunity when it came to him.
Vaz, Teresa Moraes. “Irony and Naturalism In “Free”, by Theodore Dreiser”. 1996. February 3 2007. <http://www.malhatlantica.pt/teresadeca/masters/ironyandnaturalisminfree.htm>.