What is the theme of selfishness in "The Great Gatsby." How is it similar to the world.

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sagesource | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Selfishness permeates The Great Gatsby, and indeed its near-omnipresence provides the rationale for the title. Nick Carraway, the narrator, awards the title "great" to Gatsby not because Gatsby is a good or honest person (he is not) or because his romantic quest to win Daisy Buchanan away from her husband is realistic or commendable (it is neither). Gatsby deserves to be called "great" because of all the major characters surveyed by the narrator, he alone manages to break free from an exclusive obsession with himself and his own needs. He pursues Daisy as an ideal beyond himself, the "green light" at the end of the dock that Nick sees him yearning for the first time he encounters Gatsby. He is not selfish and cynically accepting of his selfishness, in the way that Jordan Baker and Daisy Buchanan are, nor is he lost in the almost childlike self-absorption and self-pity that characterizes Tom Buchanan. He will even go so far as to pretend that it was he and not Daisy who was at the wheel of the car that killed Myrtle Wilson (chapter 7). In a society of self-centered cynics, Gatsby alone preserves the "capacity for wonder" that in the narrator's view has been lost from modern American society.


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