Similar Themes Across Time Periods 

Theme  n.- 1. a unifying or dominant idea, motif, etc., as in a work of art; 2. a universal idea that most anyone can relate or empathize with that appears in works of art.

Themes help develop the stories we love. We love them because we can relate to the message, the "bigger picture," that a story tells.

Lets look at some lyrics from Frank Sinatra.

How is the theme of making selfish choices being portrayed?

Where else in literature or film might this theme exist?

My Way by Frank Sinatra released 1969

And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I'll say it clear,
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain.

I've lived a life that's full.
I've traveled each and ev'ry highway;
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets, I've had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.

I've loved, I've laughed and cried.
I've had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.

To think I did all that;
And may I say - not in a shy way,
"No, oh no not me,
I did it my way".

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows -
And did it my way!

Lets look at some lyrics from a modern rock group, 311.

How do these song lyrics reflect the same theme of making selfish choices?

Beautiful Disaster by 311 released 1997

Today seems like a good day to burn a bridge or two
The one with old wood creaking that would burn away right on cue
I try to be not like that but some people really suck
Some people need to get the axing chalk it up to bad luck

I know a drugstore cowgirl so afraid of getting bored
She's always running from something so many things ignored
I might do that stuff if it didn't make me feel like shit
I'm on some old reality tip so many trips in it

Beautiful disaster
Flyin' down the street again
I tried to keep up
You wore me out and left me ate up
Now I wish you all the luck
You're a butterfly in the wind without a care
A pretty train crash to me and I can't care
I do I don't whatever

I know a drugstore cowgirl so afraid of getting bored
She's always running from something so many things ignored
I try to be not like this but I thought it'd make a good song
There's nothing to see shows over people just move along

Beautiful disaster
Flyin' down the street again
I tried to keep up
You wore me out and left me ate up
Now I wish you all the luck
You're a butterfly in the wind without a care
A pretty train crash to me and I can't care
I do I don't whatever

Making Choices in Literature Across Time Periods.

...in The Iliad by Homer published in 750 BC

Achilles from Homer's epic poem The Iliad has a tragic flaw, which can best be identified as hubris (an overbearing arrogance or misguided pride) as one of many distinguishing traits. Achilles makes selfish choices based on his overbearing pride. According to the myth the Homeric Greeks would have known, Achilles was given a choice by the gods to live a short, glorious life full of excitement and heroism or a long, tranquil life with little recognition or fame. Achilles, of course, chose the glorious life; therefore, he achieves a kind of immortality through valor and intense, honest devotion to a cause.

...in The Giver by Lois Lowry published in 1993

Throughout The Giver, Lowry attempts to awaken each and every reader to the dangers that exist when people opt for conformity over individuality and for unexamined security over freedom. At one time in the past, the people who inhabited Jonas' community intended to create a perfect society. They thought that by protecting the citizens from making wrong choices (by having no choices), the community would be safe. But the utopian ideals went awry, and people became controlled and manipulated through social conditioning and language. Now, even the expression "love" is an empty ideal. For example, when Jonas asks his parents if they love him, his mother scolds him for using imprecise language. She says that "love" is "a very generalized word, so meaningless that it's become almost obsolete." To Jonas, however, love is a very real feeling.

Lowry stresses the point that people must not be blindly obedient to the rules of society. They must be aware of and must question everything about their lives. In Jonas' community, the people passively accept all rules and customs. They never question the fact that they are killing certain babies simply because such babies are different, or that they are killing old people whom they determine are no longer productive to the community. The community members unquestioningly follow rules; over time, because killing has become a routine practice, horrible and senseless actions do not morally, emotionally, or ethically upset them. As The Giver says of Jonas' father's killing the lighter-weight twin male, "It's what he was told to do, and he knows nothing else."

Extra Credit


Answer the following prompt in the comment stream:

Discuss a movie or book where the main character has to make a selfish choice. Also, discuss how making a selfish choice can be a positive thing.