Character Deterioration In Literature: Hamlet And August: Osage County

1405 words - 6 pages

Henry Ward Beecher once stated Selfishness at the expense of others' happiness is demonism. This theory addresses that a part of the human condition is becoming
corrupted by self-absorption. Authors such as William Shakespeare and Tracy Letts chose to explore this theory through literary characters that exploit others in order to benefit themselves, because of self-absorption. The characters in Hamlet and August: Osage County contribute to their own mental, physical, and social deterioration.

One of the most prevalent instigators of a psychological break is a character’s desire for relief of emotional pain. In Hamlet, Ophelia experiences the great loss of her beloved father. After speaking with Ophelia, Claudius concludes, O, this is the poison of deep grief. It springs All from her father’s death. 4.5.80-81 Later on, she becomes
submerged in a brook and, she chanted snatches of old lauds, As one incapable of her own distress (IV.vii.202-203) Ophelia is so overwhelmed with the sadness generated by her father’s death, that she becomes mad. This insanity is an inner creation built in order to live in a world revolving around her. Ophelia then enables herself to decide to commit suicide without considering the consequences. In contrast with the conditions under which Ophelia takes her own life, Beverly in August: Osage County, experiences different circumstances, yet comes to the same dismal conclusion. Beverly makes mistakes, both consequential and inconsequential throughout his life. He expresses that he has a significant affinity with Berryman’s quote The world is gradually becoming a place where I do not care to be anymore Prologue 11. Beverly had once participated in incestuous acts and he, “tore himself up over it, for thirty some-odd years. 3.5.133 recalls Violet. His family, career, and passions have become insignificant to him. Constantly reliving and regretting his selfish decisions in life causes Beverly to commit suicide. In brief, a character’s desire for emotional relief can cause a mental break so large that it leads to his or her own death.

In various situations, the initiator of a mental deficiency is yearning for possessions. In Hamlet, Young Fortinbras discards his morals in order to avenge his father’s death. He is determined to reclaim the land his father lost by any means necessary. The small piece of land, hath in it no profit, but the name (4.4.20) yet Young Fortinbras is willing to risk the lives of, Two thousand souls […]” (4.4.26) to obtain it. He experiences a mental break when his main focus becomes his own desires. In order to fill his own needs, he is thoughtless when risking the lives of individuals who worship him. Through a character’s desire for insignificant possessions, personal mental breakdowns occur. Contrary to the circumstances of Young Fortinbras, Violet in August: Osage County experiences mental trauma due to different conditions. Violet places her husband’s life second to her desire for...

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