Essay about Selfishness Explored in The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath

Essay about Selfishness Explored in The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath

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From a young age, our parents teach us to be grateful for what we have. However, as human beings and Americans, we * find it difficult to be content with what we consider “less.” Much of the American Dream revolves around success, and in general, the more you have, whether it is money, possessions, or relationships, the more successful you are. The American value of achievement often results in selfishness, once described by William E. Gladstone as “the greatest curse of the human race” (William E. Gladstone quotes, 2010). Collectively, The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath demonstrate how selfishness breaks society, affecting both the individual as well as those around him, and how selflessness repairs it.
Loneliness results from selfish choices. In The Grapes of Wrath, Muley Graves chooses selfishness when his entire family moves to California in hopes to find a better life, knowing that they will soon starve if they remain in Oklahoma, but Muley chooses to stay behind. When Casy hears this, he tells Muley, “You should of went too. You shouldn’t of broke up the fambly” (Steinbeck, 1967). In response, Muley simply states, “I couldn’. Somepin jus’ wouldn’ let me” (Steinbeck, 1967). The land has bestowed years of memories upon Muley, but now, the land is killing him and *** dividing him and his family because of his incapability of letting go. * Like Muley’s preoccupation with his land, Daisy becomes an obsession for Gatsby. He * grips their memories together so tightly that they limit his opportunities to live a fulfilling life. Both ** men end up lonely because of their single-mindedness. For Muley, he is left alone in Oklahoma with the Joad’s dogs while he watches his friends and family drive off into the dist...

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...teredness stems from the constant striving for the American Dream of success and especially applies to today, when we see war, embezzlement, and natural disasters all over the news. But the philanthropic acts that lift us up and allow society to survive reverse the selfishness that often presents itself during difficult situations. So while selfishness may be the “greatest curse of the human race,” selflessness is the greatest cure (William E. Gladstone quotes, 2010).


Fitzgerald, F.S. (1925). The great Gatsby. Retrieved 17 April 2011, from

Steinbeck, J. (1967). The grapes of wrath. New York, NY, USA: Penguin Books.

William E. Gladstone quotes. (2010). Retrieved 19 April, 2011, from

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