Hamlet and David In Hamlet and The Mountain and the Valley, both literary pieces present us with two melancholic characters who live in conflict due to the dichotomy of their natures . Both Hamlet and David are similar because they are conflicted by foils and similar in the nature of this tragedy. Each has deep inner problems of conflict.
Hamlet is first tormented by the death of his father, the king of Denmark. Then he is cast into utter agony when Gertrude, the mother he loves dearly is hastily married to his uncle, Claudius. Through a ghostly revelation, Hamlet learns that his suspicions that Claudius murdered his father are true. He becomes incensed and wants to enact revenge upon the guilty party. From this point on, Hamlet struggles with his plan for revenge that conflicts with his opposite contemplative nature.
Hamlet does not take the opportunity to slay Claudius as he prays because he believes it will save his soul. His contemplative nature takes over regarding the ghost s revelation and he decides to devise a play to pique Claudius conscience and make sure he is really guilty.
Whenever Hamlet denies his true nature, his actions are very harsh. During a heated discussion with his mother Gertrude, he accidentally slays Laertes father, Polonius, thinking it to be Claudius. Hamlet quickly brushes it aside. He also sends his friends , Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to their deaths when he learns of Claudius plot to have him put to death when he arrived in England as a so called diplomat.
Hamlet cannot decide between a life of action and revenge, or contemplation and fate and he is genuinely concerned with the deeper truths upon which his life is ordered- fate and freewill.
Ernest Buckler portrays the life of his main character, David Canaan, in conflict, through a slow moving metaphor from the valley to the mountain. David is a deeply intellectual character and like Hamlet has a conflicted dichotomous nature.
One of his difficulties arise from the death of his girlfriend Effie. He feels guilty and responsible for. Also, when his friend Toby comes to the valley for the first time, David is torn between making Toby feel comfortable, while at the same time trying to avoid hurting his family s feelings.
David also feels separate from Joseph, his father, and Chris, his brother, who are much different from him. David is inflicted with an emotional and physical scar which is never healed because of an incident with Chris . David, his family, and friends were trying to slaughter a pig. Chris picks on David saying Dave doesn t like to see anything get killed ( Buckler, 183). David is enraged by this comment because it was said in derision and he later tries to prove himself by climbing across the beams of the balcony against the warnings of his father. As David turns around and looks at the scaffolding he gazes down and sees Chris staring up at him. Seconds later David falls and seriously injuries himself.
Chris carries the unconscious David to the house and later tells David he did not mean what he said. But David cannot forgive him and only asks him for someone to bring him water.
This incident separated Chris and David forever and is the start of a major downfall in David s life. David s dichotomy is his love and hate relationship with the valley. He knows he is intelligent enough to venture out of the valley but it is also his security blanket.
David realizes that he will forever remain in the valley after a particular incident occurs in the fields after he and his father struggle to accept each other. David and Joseph were trying to move a extremely large boulder and they got into an argument while trying to pry the boulder up with a log. David insults his fathers intelligence and Joseph strikes David on the face. David decides not to strike back and tells his father that he would like to leave this goddamn hole and he decides to run away. He gets picked up by a couple from the city but soon after starts to think of his father and asks to be let off making up the excuse that he has forgotten something. Once out he feels as if he is in no-man s land and starts to think of his family and how different he is really is; now there is only one thing he can do:
Suddenly he put his head into the place left to hide: the crook of
his elbow along the rail of the bridge. He began to sob. He sobbed
because he could neither leave nor stay. He sobbed because he was
neither one thing or the other. ( 165) This is a pivotal point in David s life because he knows he can never
leave the valley. After the death of Martha and Joseph, David stays on the farm doing the chores and looking after his grandmother. He is shrouded in a cloak of loneliness and his thoughts.
Both Hamlet and David are conflicted with foils in their lives.
Hamlet s foils are none other than Laertes and Fortinbras. Laertes, on the hearing of his father s murder by Hamlet is ready to instantly revenge his father s death, while Hamlet, after hearing the revelation of the ghost, keeps delaying and hesitating his plan of revenge for the death of his father.
Fortinbras is also a foil to Hamlet. As Fortinbras marches to his probable death with a massive army to fight for a useless piece of land, Hamlet expresses his feelings:
How stand I then, / That have a father kill d, a mother stain d /
Excitements of my reason and my blood, / And let all sleep, while,
to my shame, I see / The imminent death of twenty thousand men, /
That, for a fantasy and trick of fame, / Go to their graves like
beds, fight for a plot. (4,4, 56-62)
David s foils are Chris and Joseph, his brother and father. David gets frustrated when Joseph will not count on him like he counted on Chris when they slaughter pigs. Also the experience of moving the boulder
with his father points out how very different David is from Joseph and Chris. David longs to be physically stronger like them, but he is weaker and more intellectual. David s entire life is devoted to trying to prove to his family that he is capable of doing whatever Chris and Joseph can do, but he never could.
The foils of both characters are effective because they are directly related to their dichotomy and inner problems.
Both Hamlet and David are effective tragic characters. Throughout the play Hamlet allows his true nature to delay his revenge and the faked madness he creates causes more problems. Only after learning of Claudius corruption of Laertes and that his fate is sealed is he able to propel himself to stab and force the final dregs of poison into Claudius mouth. This delivers the closing of a classical tragedy.
The character of David Canaan can easily be regarded as tragic. David himself knows that he can never leave the valley and the downfall of his life begins upon the falling out with his brother Chris. Soon he is left alone in the valley to tend to the chores and his grandmother after both Martha and Joseph pass away. He is now isolated with his thoughts and loneliness. A short time later, his only real friend ,Toby, goes off to war, and leaves his wife Anna with him. Oddly, David feels more alone than ever and takes a pilgrimage up the mountain that always was close but seemed so far away. Here David experiences an epiphany. A calmness and clarity comes to his thoughts and he sees that he can start over after all that has happened. He remembers all his unfulfilled dreams and what each family member means to him. He wants to ask Chris to come back to live with him and tell Anna that they can never grow apart. Sadly, he is never able to tell these things and the weakness of his heart and injury sustained in the barn take their toll:
And then he felt the beating of his heart. And then the blackness swam in his head again. He waited for it to clear. And then the blackness turned to gray and then to white; an absolute white,made of all the other colours but of no colour itself at all. And then the snow began to fall. ( 294)
As shown, Hamlet and David both live in conflict due to their dichotomous natures and their foils are directly linked to their inner problems. Both Buckler and Shakespeare have both presented us with two effective tragic characters.