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In a young adult, what would cause development of a high sense of duty?


This is a question related to my previous question about child's morality, but different criteria are applied.

Criteria and Question:

My desired kid would be born commoner but from merchant class, boy or girl, apprenticed as a captain's clerk on board of a ship at the age of 16. What events or experiences would develop, in young adult, high sense of duty (duty first above all else thinking).

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2 answers


For your industrial revolution era character, the whole of their upbringing, education, and training would be designed to develop a high sense of duty in them. It is only after the first world war and Wilfrid Owen's scolding of his civilization that attitudes on duty start to change:

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

It is only our current civilization, its illusions shattered by two world wars and by the bloodiest of centuries, that does not raise its children with a strong sense of social duty.

The question for a child in the time you are dealing with is not what would develop a strong sense of duty in them, but what would not.



The first thing would be the universal expectation and recommendation of it. If they saw as they were growing up that this is what people were praised, rewarded, and remembered for, and even more importantly, that lacking social duty is what people are reviled for (like being known as a racist in today's society), it would leave a strong mark on them.

The other thing would be when their understanding of life and death was tied to the necessity of social duty. For instance, as a merchant's child, they would learn the business from their parents, and their parents would teach them that their life and death is tied to the success of their business. They might learn of people who starved to death or went to the poor houses and died because their business failed. Their parents would also teach them how the business worked and how small details, accurately keeping inventory, keeping a good reputation, maintaining low overhead, buying low and selling high, etc are all absolutely necessary to be successful, and to not die. And it wouldn't just be lip service for the parents. A merchant in those periods almost certainly understood how easily you could go from being successfully to being destitute and they would try to drive those principles into their children. A lot of it really was life and death for them, so they would be taught that anyone who failed to care about these details of merchant life basically didn't care about whether they all lived and died. Finally, the things that they understand about their parents business and about life and death get tied to the nation and to society as a whole. The idea that men doing their duty is to the nation what the fundamentals of merchant life are to the business and that failure to do one's duty IS death only on a much larger scale.

If you've read Carry on Mr. Bowditch or other books like it, you'll see aspects of this expressed. It doesn't have to be heavy-handed or preachy. The idea is to make it part their lives. This is the literally the fabric of society. It's what holds everything together, and everyone collectively believes it and enforces it as if their lives depend on it.

Let me know if that makes sense.


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