Apathy in Literature

Apathy in Literature

A Discourse on Emotionless Characters and Concepts

eBook - 2014
Rate this:
This discourse focuses on the different concepts of apathy that appear in literature. Not only characterizations of apathetic protagonists, but also abstract concepts of apathy help to explore this special topic. Several important literary works from all sorts of genres function as examples to explain these concepts. Shakespeare's 'Hamlet', 'Camus' 'The Stranger', Palahniuk's 'Fight Club', Süskind's 'Perfume', and Dick's 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' are only few of many literary works which are examined under the aspect of apathy in this study. Apathy is the lack of any kind of emotion. As emotions are essential to the conception of the human being, many approaches to understand this phenomenon have been made. The fields of psychology and biology are only two of several sciences which try to explain this phenomenon of alexithymia. But, whereas the core and origin of this human condition are still being analyzed, literature has been using the theme of apathy in several different ways. How this theme is used and which different concepts of apathy exist, will be examined in this discourse.   Auszug aus dem Text Text sample: Chapter 4.4, Apathy as Hamlet's flaw: As it has been analysed in the chapter regarding Meursault as a tragic hero, Gelfert gives us several aspects to define whether a character is a tragic hero. Hamlet is a tragedy following a long tradition of Shakespearean tragedies. But Hamlet's flaw has always been a point of discussion. Several possible conceptions of a flaw such as revenge or grief have been given. In the following it will be attempted to identify the Hamlet's flaw by focussing on the key moments of a tragedy given by Gelfert. The ghost which appears to Hamlet is analogue to Macbeth's prophecy of the witches. This apparition spreads new information and triggers the course of the tragedy. It is the dangerous
situation which Gelfert points out and into which the tragic hero Hamlet stumbles. It is also the moment as of which Hamlet rids himself of all emotions. Before this moment, Hamlet is neither a sinner nor a saint. He rebels against the new king and wants to travel somewhere else, but at the same time accepts decisions made by the authority. Thus, Hamlet is a rebel, but follows the laws of the king and religion. The turning point is when the play in the play is staged by Hamlet to provoke a reaction from Claudius. As of this point it is clear that Claudius is the murderer and that there will be a battle between him and Hamlet. Furthermore, also Hamlet, as every tragic hero, knows that he will fall before he dies because he is poised in a battle. One theory has been that Hamlet's emotions lead to his downfall. Uncontrolled emotions seem to be his flaw. The appearance of the ghost triggers Hamlet's anger, which is directed towards Claudius, his uncle and brother of the dead king Hamlet. His anger is stronger than the feeling of love he has for Ophelia and the feeling of loyalty for his mother. He also stabs the wrong person who hides behind a curtain in his mother's room because he is determined to murder Claudius and believes him to be hiding there. This is another proof of his uncontrolled emotions because he stabs the curtain in rage. But in contrast to this theory, one might say that all of Hamlet's emotions are controlled by his reasoning. The stabbing of Polonius has already been interpreted as unemotional due to the calmness of Hamlet. It must therefore be an artificial anger. Moreover, Hamlet has prepared himself in the scene before to feel this emotion. The scene in which this concept of repressed emotions might become even clearer is when he spares the apparently praying Claudius because Hamlet believes he would go to heaven. He does not
stab him because he reasons with himself. His emotions are under control of his reason and thereby Hamlet falters. Furthermore, all of his emotions change according to the altering circumstances. He stops loving Ophelia and he starts disrespecting his mother for marrying so early after his father's death only after his father appeared to him. Hamlet adjusts his emotions rationally. Furthermore, in his famous soliloquy he speaks about the purpose of life and whether suicide is the best solution. But instead of being overwhelmed by his emotions, Hamlet reasons that suicide is a mortal sin. Taking these thoughts into account, his emotions are always controlled, so emotions cannot be his flaw. But flaw is not his flaw either. Even if he had murdered Claudius earlier it is unclear if anyone had believed the theory that the former king was murdered and if Hamlet had not fallen nonetheless. What really causes this tragedy and his tragic death is his attempt to take revenge itself. York Notes show the 'ambiguous status of the ghost" (p.103, Hamlet: York Notes Advanced) by quoting Hamlet's doubt whether it is 'wicked or charitable" (p.207, Hamlet). The ghost confronts Hamlet with ambiguous information as to say the queen is left to God's punishment, but the new king must be punished by Hamlet himself. Hamlet's flaw is therefore his loyalty to his father. Trusting the apparition of his father to be charitable when it says that revenge is the right thing to do, triggers the tragedy. Hamlet's loyalty towards his father makes him gullible for his father's apparition's words and moreover, makes him an instrument of this apparition. As it has been said already in the case of Meursault - also the unemotional can attempt to do the morally correct thing as to restore justice. This question of morality is also highly complex in Fight Club, in which the protagonist
strives to feel emotion, but thereby endangers many others. We will therefore focus on the concept of apathy in Fight Club in the next chapter. Short conclusion of the concept of apathy - Hamlet: As it was shown, the relation between Hamlet's ratio and emotion can be understood by saying that his emotion is repressed and he uses emotion according to the circumstances. He adjusts and prepares before acting. As of the appearance of the ghost he loses every emotion to take revenge. But he stays on the side of virtue by controlling his emotion and acts only rationally. Revenge is not a feeling but a rational restoring of justice. Religion and the afterlife are then the authorities which majorly form his character as every action becomes an act for the afterlife. This has become clear in his soliloquy - the moment a character expresses his inner state. In contrast to Meursault, Hamlet's flaw is not the apathy itself but his loyalty. The concept of apathy in Hamlet is therefore a lack of the character's inner feeling. The emotions, which Hamlet openly expresses, can be interpreted as controlled and artificial as shown in many examples. Hamlet is the willingly emotion controlling character, whose apathy is triggered by a particular incident in the story. This is the second type of an unemotional character.   Biographische Informationen Tony McCracken was a student of literature and philosophy in Darmstadt, Germany. The main focus of his momentary studies is the influence of philosophical problems on literary works. The author's private interests are rock 'n' roll and cats.
Publisher: Hamburg : Diplomica Verlag, 2014
Edition: 1st ed
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9783954896127
Branch Call Number: Electronic book
Characteristics: 1 online resource (97 pages)
Additional Contributors: ProQuest (Firm)


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

There are no comments for this title yet.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at MCL

To Top