The Characters Of Hamlet And Holden

1762 words - 7 pages

To some, this argument may seem the most blatant form of mistruth, horrendous, even, in its lack of taste, a kind of literary sacrilege, in fact. Surely we have reached the end, one might say, when one can considerer comparing the immortal Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, with the adolescent protagonist of Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. Salinger’s hero has been compared to many literary figures, from Huckleberry Finn to David Copperfield. So many different attitudes have been taken toward him. Let’s stop talking about him and write something else. Isn’t the subject getting boring? Perhaps so, but Holden will not go away. He continues to pester the mind, and while reading A.C. Bradley’s analysis of Hamlet’s character, it was hard to resist the idea that much of what Bradley was saying about Hamlet applied to Holden as well. Perhaps the comparison is not as absurd as it first appears. Of course, there is no similarity between the events of the play and those of the novel. The fascinating thing while reading Bradley was how perfectly his analysis of Hamlet’s character applied to Holden’s, how deeply, in fact, he was going into Holden’s character as well, revealing, among other things, its potentially tragic nature.
After demolishing the theories of other critics, Bradley concluded that the essence of Hamlet’s character is contained in a three-fold analysis of it. First, that rather than being melancholy by temperament, in the usual sense of “profoundly sad,” he is a person of unusual nervous instability, one liable to extreme and profound alterations of mood, a potential manic-depressive type. Romantic, we might say. Second, this Hamlet is also a person of “exquisite moral sensibility, “ hypersensitive to goodness, a moral idealist who, when he cannot wholly love the world chooses wholly to despise it rather than live in it with its imperfections. He is also a person who tends to see only good as real but who, when evil is forced upon him as a reality, loses his awareness of good almost altogether. Third, there is Hamlet’s particular type of intellectual genius: an unusual quickness of mind, a great agility in shifting mental attitudes, a remarkable ability to penetrate appearances once they are seen as such, a passion for generalizing about life, and a curiosity about life, ideas, and people that is so strong that one doubts the possibility of his ever satisfying it.
Bradley goes on to say that the tragedy of Hamlet is that these very characteristics, which formerly were the reasons for his superiority, because of an incident in his life- his mother’s hasty marriage to his father’s brother and what he later learns about his mother’s adultery and his father’s murder- are now the very qualities tat bring about his destruction. Bradley sees his inability to act as being the result of an intense moral disillusionment, one that produces a depression so great as to constitute utter world-weariness and a frustration as well as...

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