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The Selfish and the Selfless in The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath

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When facing a conflict, one mostly tries to find a solution that will benefit him rather than accommodate everyone. It’s much more satisfactory to have everything go one’s way than having to compromise with another. This selfish mentality is something that repeatedly takes place in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, where many characters act out of their own self-interest. However, throughout The Grapes of Wrath, written by John Steinbeck, the individuals often commit acts of true altruism. Instead of always being on the lookout for themselves, they often make sacrifices for others. The Great Gatsby’s selfish, egocentric acts contrast with the altruistic, selfless acts in The Grapes of Wrath through demonstrations of self sacrifice, greed, and the ability to persevere and help others in the direst of situations.
After a traumatic, horrible event takes place, there are often further issues as to who will take the blame for it or who will sacrifice themselves for the blame. After an automobile hits and kills Myrtle Wilson in The Great Gatsby, her husband George is ravenous in his attempts to find her murderer. Although it is clear that Daisy Buchanan drove the car that killed Myrtle, George shoots Gatsby due to the fact that Tom Buchanan leads him into thinking Gatsby is the driver. When Nick Carraway confronts Tom about this, Tom nonchalantly replies, “I told [George] the truth,” (Fitzgerald, 2000) indicating full well that he knew George would get rid of Gatsby. Instead of taking responsibility for the calamity and saving Gatsby (whom Daisy supposedly “loves”), Tom and Daisy act out of self-interest and “retreat back into their money… and let other people clean up the mess they had made…” (Fitzgerald, 2000.) On the o...


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... barn where the family finds refuge. Conversely to The Great Gatsby, the individuals in The Grapes of Wrath persevere and show selflessness towards others in the hardest of times.
In conclusion, when it comes to selfishness and selflessness, these two novels could not be more different. In The Great Gatsby, many decisions the characters make often have egocentric, greedy motives, while in The Grapes of Wrath the main characters are usually committing altruistic, selfless acts no matter how tough the circumstances are. Through demonstrations of self-sacrifice for others, greed, and the ability to persevere harsh times and still care for others, these two novels prove to be highly contrasting.



Works Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. (2000). The great gatsby. London, England: Penguin Classics.
Steinbeck, J. (2006). The grapes of wrath. New York, NY: Penguin Books.


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