One of the social expectations that Esther faces is that a woman's role is to serve men. This social expectation often confuses how she sees men and how she sees herself in relation to men. Buddy Willard, Constantin, Cal, Irwin, Eric, Marco, and others are seen "in mostly sexual terms, as candidates for Esther to lose her virginity to or potential husbands." This helps to confuse her own sense of self and her own notion of how to relate to men. Esther's demand of being independent from Irwin at the end of the narrative is significant because she completely activates her being apart from men. The social expectation of being a woman which involves marriage, children, and subjugating career to domesticity without much in way of complaint or voice is one that dominates Esther's being in the world.
I think that another social expectation that Esther navigates is the social expectation of individual psychology. Esther feels confined not only because she is a woman but because she is unable to authentically experience feeling and emotion. Starting with her mother, the world in which Esther lives does not seem to validate emotional contact and true emotional connection. Esther grieves at her father's grave later on in her life. She grieves at Joan's funeral in a manner that is contrary to what others would expect. She is finally able to activate her own psychological voice from having to silence it for so long. These psychological expectations were imposed upon her and help to enhance the ending in which she has claimed more of her voice and seeks to authenticate her own notion of psychological self.