The Importance Of Selfishness In Literature

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As humans, we are inconsiderate and greedy animals who proceed down the most corrupted path to achieve our goals. Gone are our ethical values when our hunger for success is unleashed. Unconcerned with the wellbeing of others, our lethal daggers plunge into our vulnerable prey. With so many witnesses, why does no one step forward to save the victim? The answer is rather vague, and the ambiguity of the response is meant to mask the shameful reality; we, the human race, are selfishly disgusting. We are unable to face our selfishness, so, instead, we choose to ignore its existence. Through literature, we are exposed to this demoralising flaw within ourselves when literary characters mirror our own society’s struggle with selfishness. However, …show more content…
How are we, the readers, reminded of our selfishness, and how effectively do we respond? In literature, we read about characters’ egoistic choices and, consequently, we reflect on our own similar selfish decisions. Thus, literature, to a considerable degree, is a stepping stone for readers to begin our journey on curing selfishness, but, like a deadly poison, finding the antidote for this overwhelming selfish plague is difficult, if not impossible. Literature utilizes textual strategies to describe gruesome details of a story so readers may compare the harsh experiences to our own placid difficulties. As a reader, imagery triggers both sympathy and empathy in me for fictional characters. Lawrence Hill, in The Book of Negroes, employs this tactic when describing the horrific conditions African slaves must experience: “Everywhere I turned, men were lying naked, chained to each other and to their sleeping boards, groaning, and crying. Waste and blood streamed along the floorboards, covering my toes” (Hill 63). Such a nauseating description created by imagery forces …show more content…
In the news, literature, and even my own essay, selflessness is frequently romanticized. Society is guilty of over-glorifying selflessness as a saintly virtue that deserves excessive praise and respect. Sometimes, in literature, readers are deceived by selfless acts and fail to recognize ulterior, selfish motives. In This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel, Victor takes extreme sacrificial measures to obtain an elixir to cure his brother’s illness. Without deeper analysis, readers are deluded into believing his intentions are a result of integrity and sincerity. However, as one scrutinizes his plan, it is revealed his mission is meant to prove he has the “power [to] bring [his brother] back from the dead” so as to establish superiority (Oppel 205). Victor hopes to gain Elizabeth’s love through his act of courage and selflessness. Selfish intentions predominantly remain to be an inevitable factor in his – and many others’ – decision-making process. This idea is further supported in charitable situations such as helping the elderly or volunteering. One may interpret these actions as compassionate deeds performed out of the goodness of a person’s heart. Perhaps, truthfully, these acts derive from selfish reasons – satisfaction gained from benevolence, recognition awarded for generosity, or fame reaped from kindness. Perhaps, altruism is an illusion, and we

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