Selfishness Selfishness - Exclusive regard to one's own interest or happiness; that supreme self-love or selfpreference which leads a person to direct his purposes to the advancement of his own interest, power, or happiness, without regarding those of others.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” This quote is saying that every person must decide whether he is going to help out other people and be seen as a selfless person or become selfish and be seen as a person who only cares about him or herself. During the Holocaust, pretty much all people had to make this decision. The decision of whether to share what you had and increase the chance of you dying but increase the chance for the other person to live. The other choice was to become selfish, hoarding what had and keeping it to yourself. This behavior would slightly increase your own chances of survival. For good or bad, most people chose the decision to look out for themselves. This relates to the books Night by Elie Wiesel and Maus by Art Spiegelman because the characters of both books have to decide whether they are going to look out for themselves or if they are going to try to help out others. When a human being is faced with a life or death situation, they typically become selfish in order to survive because human instinct kicks in and you only try to keep yourself alive as illustrated in Maus and Night. Being selfish can take many forms. One form is the unfair trading of food or taking food from people. In many cases in the books Maus and Night, selfishness involved food because it is so necessary for living that people were willing to do almost anything for it. In the book Night, Elie tells about how bad the Holocaust was. Toward the end of the book, Elie writes about how his father had so
little energy that he just seemed lifeless. Elie's described his father crawling on the floor and reaching for his chest. Elie thought he had gotten a blow to his chest, but then his father pulled out a piece of bread. Next his father saw a shadow loom upon him then the shadow threw itself upon him. Elie's father said, “My boy! Don't you recognize me? I'm your father . . . you're hurting me . . . you're killing your father (Wiesel 96)!” During this quote Elie jumped on top of his father and took his bread from him. Seeing that Elie would take bread from his already very weak father shows how far people would go for basic food. People were almost forced to do things like this worse, just to have a fighting chance to survive this horrific situation. Many people also made unfair trades for goods and food which happened to Vladek in the book Maus. Food is also a major obsession for Vladek in the novel Maus. He took advantage of another prisoner who needed food very badly. The shirts that the Nazis gave the prisoners were very thin and lot of the time had lice in them. Vladek knew that a shirt was very important, something that some may not have known. Vladek asked a man who was clearly hungry if he wanted to buy some chocolate. The man looked at him like he was crazy and asked if he looked like a millionaire. Vladek, now knowing he didn't have money to pay, went to the next best thing which was his shirt. Vladek asked the man to trade his shirt for the chocolate. The man replied, “My shirt?! You're crazy – I'd freeze! Um give me your days ration of bread too” (Spiegelman 94). This quote is saying that the man, even though he knew he could freeze by giving up his shirt, gave it up because he lacked food. Vladek now had two shirts when most other people had one or none. In these two examples, both Vladek and Elie show that when they are facing death, they become very selfish and just look out for themselves in order to survive. Elie was being selfish in this instance because he took advantage of an older and much weaker man than himself, which also happened...
Cited: Spiegalman, Art. Maus. Pankeon Books, New York: 986. Print. Wiesel, Elie. Night. Bantam Books. New York: 960. Print.
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