A Comparison of Hubris in Catcher in the Rye, Scarlet Letter, and Great Gatsby

  • :: 4 Works Cited
  • Length: 1057 words (3 double-spaced pages)
  • Rating: Excellent
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Text Preview

More ↓

Continue reading...

Open Document

Hubris in the Protagonists of Catcher in the Rye, Scarlet Letter, and Great Gatsby

  Aristotle praised Sophocles' King Oedipus as the definitive Greek tragedy; however, he could not have surmised the influence of Oedipus' tragic pride on modern day literature and philosophy. Hubris, the only true crime, has had a threefold influence: it is a reason for downfall as well as a characteristic of criminal motivation; it is manifested in the diverse protagonists of Salinger, Fitzgerald, and Hawthorne; and it is forgiven only by repentance for wrongdoing and the complete surrender of pride.


The erroneous idea that pride is only a predominant characteristic of crime, rather than a crime itself, would put tragic hero Oedipus on the same level as serial killer Charles Manson: while both are guilty of committing heinous acts, Oedipus relinquishes his pride and, ironically suffering under his own proclamation of exile, does penance for his crimes, whereas Manson shows no remorse for his vile and disturbing bloodletting. Oedipus' ultimate repentance is proof that he realizes his hubris and understands his mistakes, as irreparable as they may be.


All human filthiness in one crime compounded!

Unspeakable acts-I speak no more of them.

Hide me at once, for God's love, hide me away...

Touch me, and have no fear. On no man else

But on me alone is the scourge of my punishment. (64)


Had Oedipus sought to blame another for his crimes, or denied his own responsibility for his actions, he would have been no nobler than a common criminal; Oedipus is redeemed by his strength of character.


The hamartia of hubris lives on 2500 years after Aristotle lauded King Oedipus as the quintessential Greek tragedy; pride has evolved into an integral characteristic of the majority of literary characters from J.D. Salinger's angry, disillusioned Holden Caulfield to F. Scott Fitzgerald's idealistic Jay Gatsby to Nathaniel Hawthorne's tortured Reverend Dimmesdale.


Holden's pride in his sarcastic perception of the world around him perpetuates his cynicism and frustration with life, making him unrealistic and incapable of finding happiness. He believes himself omniscient, and that other "people never notice anything" (Salinger 9). Oedipus' belief in his own infallibility makes him equally unrealistic; soon after Oedipus' sins are revealed, the chorus of Elders conveys a Holden-esque message of discontent:


All generations of mortal man add up to nothing!

Show me the man whose happiness was anything more than illusion

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"A Comparison of Hubris in Catcher in the Rye, Scarlet Letter, and Great Gatsby." 123HelpMe.com. 20 Apr 2018
Title Length Color Rating  
Use Of Symbolism In The Catcher In The Rye and The Great Gatsby Essay - Use Of Symbolism In “The Catcher In The Rye” and “The Great Gatsby” There are many writers like James Joyce, Patrick Kananach and Thomas Moore who use symbolism to convey and support indirect meaning in their writings. J.D. Salinger and F. Scott Fitzgerald both use symbolism in similar ways. In both “The Catcher In The Rye” and “The Great Gatsby”, the authors used symbolism to convey emotions and reality.      In “The Catcher In The Rye”, J.D. Salinger uses Holden’s red hunting cap, the exhibits at the Museum of Natural History and “kings in the back row” as symbols whose meanings help tell the story....   [tags: Catcher In the Rye Great Gatsby] 802 words
(2.3 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
Essay about The Lessons of The Great Gatsby - “The Great Gatsby” is a novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in the 1920’s. The novel is narrated by a young man named Nick Carraway, who moves to West Egg, New York to learn more about the bond business so he can eventually sell bonds. He moves into an average house in between two huge mansions, so in comparison his average house looks like a small, run down shack. One of the owners of those mansions, and Carraway’s new neighbor, is Jay Gatsby. Gatsby has huge extravagant parties every night and one day invites Carraway personally, which he never does....   [tags: Great Gatsby Essays]
:: 4 Works Cited
1806 words
(5.2 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
In The Great Gatsby, Is Gatsby Truly Great? Essay -   Is great Gatsby truly great. It seems so according to Nick Carraway, the narrator in the novel of “The Great Gatsby.” Nick has a moral background that allows him to judge Jay Gatsby accordingly. His descriptions did not only creates sympathy, but also made Gatsby, the outlaw bootlegger, somehow admirable. F. Scott Fitzgerald presented this ethical trick to expose people’s delusions about the American dream, and uses Nick to show sympathy for strivers.   At the roaring ages of 1920s, the booming economy brings up the notion of American dream....   [tags: The Great Gatsby Essays]
:: 1 Works Cited
845 words
(2.4 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Essay about The Great Gatsby: Nick vs Gatsby - The Great Gatsby: Nick vs Gatsby Mainframe computers analyze information and present it so that the observer is able to make accurate observations. In The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the narrator, Nick Carraway, tells a story in which Jay Gatsby tries to attain happiness through wealth. Even though the novel is titled after Gatsby, Nick, just as a mainframe computer, analyzes the actions of others and presents the story so that the reader can comprehend the theme. Throughout the novel, Nick is the vehicle used to gather all of the pieces together to learn about Gatsby....   [tags: Great Gatsby Character Comparison ] 1003 words
(2.9 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
The Great Gatsby Essay - There is vast and deep connection between the author’s life and the novel. The author portrayed his real life-based situation in the novel through which he went. The author explained how seventeen-year-old young lady became the reason of his downfall. He fell and wanted to marry the girl named Zelda Sayre who had deep desire for Fitzgerald’s wealth, fame, money and material luxury. Both Gatsby and Fitzgerald idolize wealth and luxury and at last fell in love with a beautiful woman when they stopped at a military camp in the South....   [tags: The Great Gatsby Essays] 1290 words
(3.7 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Comparison of the Presentation of the Characters Jay Gatsby and Dick Diver from The Great Gatsby - Comparison of the Presentation of the Characters Jay Gatsby and Dick Diver from The Great Gatsby      F. Scott Fitzgerald is known as a writer who chronicled his times. This work has been critically acclaimed for portraying the sentiments of the American people during the 1920s and 1930s. ‘The Great Gatsby’ was written in 1924, whilst the Fitzgeralds were staying on the French Riviera, and ‘Tender is the Night’ was written nearly ten years later, is set on, among other places, the Riviera. There are very interesting aspects of these works, such as the way Fitzgerald treats his so-called heroes, and to what extent we can call them heroic....   [tags: The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald Essays] 5293 words
(15.1 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Comparison and Contrast in The Great Gatsby Essay - Comparison and Contrast in The Great Gatsby       The success of Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is in part due to his successful characterization of the main characters through the comparison and contrast of Daisy Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson, Tom Buchanan and George B. Wilson, and Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby. The contrast is achieved through two principle means: contrasting opposite qualities held by the characters and contrasting one character's posititve or negative qualities to another's lack thereof....   [tags: comparison compare contrast essays]
:: 6 Works Cited
1767 words
(5 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay on Symbols and Symbolism in The Great Gatsby - Symbolism in The Great Gatsby   In The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald presents a novel with intricate symbolism. Fitzgerald integrates symbolism into the heart of the novel so strongly that it is necessary to read the book several times to gain any level of understanding. The overtones and connotations that Fitzgerald gives to the dialogues, settings, and actions is a major reason why The Great Gatsby is one of the classics of the 20th century. Three themes dominate the text of The Great Gatsby....   [tags: Great Gatsby Essays] 2169 words
(6.2 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
The Great Gatsby Essay - The Great Gatsby The Great Gatsby belongs to what Harold Bloom tags the “tomb” of literary archetypes, a family of fiction that espouses every facet of the expressive use of language (everything from Shakespeare’s plays to Dickens’ prose). As a participant in this tomb, The Great Gatsby has adopted a convenient persona in the world of twentieth century literature as “the great American novel,” a work that embodies the American thematic ideals of the self-made man, the great American character—Jay Gatsby....   [tags: Great Gatsby Fitzgerald Papers]
:: 7 Works Cited
2601 words
(7.4 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay on The Theme of Carelessness in The Great Gatsby - The Theme of Carelessness in The Great Gatsby      The idea of carelessness plays an important role in The Great Gatsby. Daisy, Tom, Jordan, Gatsby and Nick were all careless at some points throughout the book.  Daisy and Tom were careless about their relationship, their money, and many of their daily activities.  Gatsby was also unconcerned with his money. Jordan was blasé about the way she treated other people.           "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back to their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made....   [tags: Great Gatsby Essays]
:: 1 Works Cited
714 words
(2 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]

Related Searches

Followed by disillusion. (59)


Both Holden and Oedipus are self-absorbed, and each is isolated by his own erroneous perception of the situation around him. Until their respective situations force Holden and Oedipus to overcome their pride and accept reality, they are incapable of realizing the errors of their perceptions.


Jay Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald's impractical and self-absorbed millionaire, is unrealistic and foolishly proud because he believes his affluence will easily buy him the love of Daisy Buchanan. His entire "Jay Gatsby" persona is built upon the assumption that he can maintain the playboy facade without consequences. His frequent bouts of fear and insecurity derive from his pride, and his persona and wealth are useless once his affair with Daisy ends.


...He wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was.... (Fitzgerald 111)


Gatsby is incapable of relinquishing his belief that Daisy's love will cure all of the problems that have plagued him; his pride prevents him from realizing that his dream, seemingly "so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it" (182), cannot be accomplished.


Nathaniel Hawthorne's Reverend Dimmesdale is an entirely different manifestation of hubris: he takes pride in torturing and loathing himself. Dimmesdale believes that the only way he will truly be forgiven is through public castigation and exile, just as Oedipus believes that the only punishment suitable for himself is a self-inflicted blinding and a life which Òage, nor sickness, nor any common accident can end" (Sophocles 66). Dimmesdale cannot abandon his self-flagellating behavior because his hubris keeps him from coming to terms with his guilt; until his death, he is incapable of repentance because he believes, with dark pride, that his sin is unforgivable.


Teiresias' statement "all men fall into sin. But sinning, he is not for ever lost... who can make amends and has not set his face against repentance" (153) is further proof that the truest form of any crime is the criminal's prideful belief in his own infallibility. A predecessor of the Christian doctrine of forgiveness via penitence, Teiresias' sage advice is pivotal to Creon, although the king of Thebes does not realize it. Ironically, Creon learns of his errors from the same prophet who foresaw Oedipus' downfall, and he has the same reaction to the seer as Oedipus: disbelief and scorn. Only when the chorus of elders reinforces the prophesy does Creon realize that he has committed a grave transgression against Antigone: "My mind is made; 'twas I that imprisoned her, and I will set her free. Now I believe it is by the laws of heaven that man must live" (156). Although he loses his wife, son and niece because of his pride and lust for power, Creon's chorus-aided epiphany and his ensuing attempt to right his wrong against Antigone serve as his repentance.


"He is not for ever lost, hapless and helpless, who can make amends and has not set his face against repentance." (153) Teiresias' judicious advice throughout Oedipus and Antigone is more than just prophesy, it is an astute analysis of the driving force behind the crimes of Oedipus and Creon: pride. Both works illustrate hubris and repentance, concepts inherent to Greek tragedy, and further prove that pride is more that just a simple character trait: it is a complex crime essential to both downfall and redemption.


Works Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. London: Penguin Books, 1990.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter: Ed. Ross C. Murfin. New York, New York: Bedford Books of St. Martins P., (1991): 54.

Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye. Boston, Massachusettes: Little, Brown and Company, 1951. 1-277.

Sophocles. Oedipus the King. Trans. Robert Fagles. The Bedford Introduction to Literature. 4th ed. Ed. Michael Meyer. Boston: St. Martins, 1996. 1120-1161.

Return to 123HelpMe.com