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What are some good examples of selfishness in this novel?  

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ryleewert | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 10, 2013 at 8:24 PM via web

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What are some good examples of selfishness in this novel?

 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 11, 2013 at 11:36 AM (Answer #1)

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I think that Steinbeck uses specific characters to embody selfishness.  The entire Joad family, to a great extent, seems to be opposite of this, stressing the idea that selflessness and a sense of solidarity are critical in overcoming challenging times.  Certainly, "the bank" is a faceless character that defies this.  "The Bank" is shown to value only money and value its own sense of self in challenging times.  The treatment of people under "the bank's" control is one in which individuals are used as means to an end, as opposed to an end in ofitself.  At the same time, "the bank" is shown to value only money for itself, willing to throw out families into the unknown in order to accomplish its own end.  In some respects, Connie also represents selfishness.  Connie Rivers does not embrace the selfless construction of the Joad family.  He is more on his own, willing to do what he has to in order to make himself money and make himself more profitable, without keeping an eye to the social maintenance of the world.  For Connie, economic challenges require a "me first" sensibility, something that the Joad family seems to repudiate in their own dispositions and beliefs.  Connie represents the idea of how many men abandoned families and emotional bonds in the name and hopes of economic success.  It is here where I think that Rose of Sharon initially demonstrates selfishness, seeing the entire struggle for survival as only for she and her child.  Her insistence on this is what makes her selfish, but her maturation in the course of the novel is where hope resides.  Her sacrifice at the end of the narrative demonstrates how individual character is fluid and does not have to be rigidly defined.  People can change, as she does, to embrace a more collective vision of the good from a selfish one.

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