Table of Contents
A study of Hamlet, Passing, Mrs. Dalloway and The Stranger
We have all had childhood dreams. That one thing that seemed so possible and achievable. However, then you grow up and reality kicks in. A study show that only 6% of people achieve their childhood dream. Nearly all people desire progress. Nearly all people fear falling short of their own and others expectations. Why don’t we achieve our dream? Nearly all people struggle to make their aspirations a reality because of fear, lack of motivation, or a simple lack of understanding on how to realize them.
Ken Sheldon did a study on intrusive vs extrusive goal setting. They found out that connection to others throughout a goal-setting process lead to happiness. Goals therefore enhances our happiness. Your dopamine system, which is a chemical that is released every time you experience a reward, is reliant upon goal setting and achievement. So as dopamine is released into the part of your brain responsible for positive rewards, you are essentially motivated to repeat this occurrence. When you set goals and accomplish them, you and your brain are rewarded leading to a happier spirit. Through pieces of literature, we see examples of characters going through spirals of trying to achieve their goals and aspirations.
However, most of the characters are not able to reach their ultimate finish-line and end in despair and tragedy. In the three pieces of literature Hamlet, Passing and Mrs. Dalloway, circumstances, lead the characters to failure in achieving their aspirations because of their fear of success, not feeling worthy of it, being afraid someone is going to take it away or the need of other people’s approval lead them to despair showing readers that dreams aren’t achievable or lead to unhappiness. That begs the question of whether or not we need dreams and if they are worth it in the long run?
In The Stranger by Albert Camus, Meursault shows no interest in dreams, also leading him to death showing that society can’t run on an undreamable population as a world without dreams is a society that does not progress hence dreams and aspirations are crucial both to the individual but also to society as a whole. In all these pieces of literature the characters seem to feel abandoned by people close to them or lack communication leading them through distress and failure. The feeling that society or people close to you aren’t listening and not paying full attention to you makes humans naturally give up on dreams and hopes as we feel they have given up on us.
Humans have a tendency for attention from others, and if we lose connections with the people around us our rational thoughts lead us to despair and chaos. Having goals and dreams can lead to happiness but this literature shows how humans easily can get lost and sidetracked by our current relationships and rational thoughts in our goal-setting process and finish-line. On the outside of the book Hamlet written by Shakespeare, Hamlet’s ultimate goal is to avenge his father by killing Claudius, his stepfather. Although Hamlet does execute his dream at the end of the book, he is essentially lost in the process leading him to his famous quote “To be or not to be” (3.1.64), contemplating if he should commit suicide and whether or not it is worth living.
Through Hamlet’s mother’s rejection both by marrying Claudius and for not paying enough attention to Hamlet and Ophelia throwing away his love letters and her rejection of Hamlet results in him feeling alone and rejected. Therefore, Hamlet’s relationships and his rational thoughts disrupt his goal. Hamlet shows us that even though his dream is achieved, his loss of connections with others leads him to be emotionally lost therefore destroying the psychological success of his dream. Not long after King Hamlet’s funeral, Gertrude remarried his brother in “wicked speed” (1.2.161) which clearly has upset Hamlet and causes Hamlet to feel abandoned, forgotten, and left behind. Since he feels rejected by her, he keeps his distance, doesn’t want to speak with her or interact with her.
Essentially he is punishing her for marrying another man so soon after King Claudius’s death. As the play progresses, Hamlet becomes more and more outraged with her as he feels she becomes more and more distant with him. At the end of act three Hamlet decides to confront his mother: “mother you have my father very offended” (3.4. 15). Gertrude has offended the memory of his father by marrying so fast leaving Hamlet hurt by her ignorance which leads him to a stronger drive for revenge on Claudius. Not only is Hamlet mad about Claudius murdering his father, but he is more so disgusted by the new marriage. Contributing to Hamlet’s yearning for suicide is Ophelia.
Ophelia agrees together with Polonius to ignore Hamlet and spy on him. This creates tension toward Hamlet who feels rejected and punished. Ophelia is told to give back Hamlet’s love letters “I pray you now receive them” (3.1.104). Hamlet views Ophelia’s sudden disinterest in him crudely. Arguably, Hamlet doesn’t know how to respond to Ophelia and his natural tendency is to get angry with her. “Get thee to a nunnery, farewell” (3.1.149), implying that Hamlet maybe feels guilt or embarrassment for once loving her when she rejects him. Hamlets rational thoughts get the better of him when he feels everyone leaving him he ends in moral distress, making his end goal less valuable.
Ophelia and Gertrude ultimately show us that connections with others is crucial if you want to achieve your goal without losing yourself. Hamlet gets lost in his process of achieving his goal because of him feeling abandoned by people close to him letting him feel depleted morally. Hamlet shows us how important other people’s approval is for humans to keep on track with our hopes, dreams and aspiration. In Passing by Nella Larsen, Clare passed as white, but as she regains contact with her childhood friend Irene, she realises she regrets her decision and makes it her goal to rejoining the black community. However, she fails as she doesn’t communicate her aspirations to anyone, arguably even herself which results in failure.
This is mainly because she is scared of her husband and society to find out she passed as white as it seemed dangerous and illegal at the time. She uses this as an excuse to not be persistent with her dream, therefore, failing. In the end Clare doesn’t persecute her dream, as she dies therefore showing how important communication it to making goals successful and reaching the ultimate humanitarian goal: happiness. Clare’s rational thoughts, her avoidance and her anxiety about her goal lead her to ultimate failure and moral distress. Ultimately Clare fails at her dream because is afraid of it and what other people think of it. Clare is different to Hamlet in that she only deep inside seems to know her real dream and she does not express this to Irene, her husband or anyone else. She does at one point in the book see Irene and feel jealous of the life she has, she says: “You can’t know how in this pale life of mine I am all the time seeing the bright pictures of that other that I once thought I was glad to be free of….It’s like an ache, a pain that never ceases.” (12).
As Clare realises she is not happy in her white community she sees what a “perfect” life Irene has, Larsen shows us that Clare regrets her decision of passing and how jealousy impacts Clare’s thoughts contributing to her failure. Enriching the idea of Clare’s confusion with herself and the people around her is the fact that she doesn’t communicate with her husband John Bellew. She doesn’t tell him about her real black identity or her sudden interest in getting back into the black community. Irene tells Clare: “You didn’t tell him you were colored, so he’s got no way of knowing about this hankering of yours after Negroes, or that it galls you to fury to hear them called niggers and black devils. As far as I can see, you’ll just have to endure some things and give up others.
As we’ve said before, everything must be paid for.”(45) Larsen is conveying the drawback of their relationship as a factor resulting in Clare Kendry’s death. Clare is turning away from her goal and therefore creates a fear of persisting with her goal. Her avoidance with John, her fear of the finish line, her jealousy toward Irene in the end effect Clare’s mind resulting in her aspirations failing. In “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf, Lucrezia and Septimus are interesting characters as Lucrezia wants Septimus to get better at the same time that Septimus wants to please Lucrezia by getting better essentially motivating each other. However, they never end succeeding this eventually ending in Septimus’s suicide and Lucrezia being left alone. Septimus failure is partly because of his lack of communication, his feeling of n unmeaningful world as well as his unworthy feeling in society.
Even though Septimus and Lucrezia do have a momentary moment where Septimus acts “healed”, from his PTSD resulting from the war, and they seem to be happy together, moments later Septimus commits suicide as he contemplates that: “It might be possible that the world itself is without meaning” (52). Woolf shows us that Septimus can’t find enough meaning in life to proceed with his dream resulting in both of their dreams failing. Septimus and Lucrezia are different from Hamlet and Clare in that Septimus doesn’t feel worthy of success and deep inside maybe can’t find enough meaning in the world to execute his ultimate goal of really getting better. Contributing to Septimus’s failure is his lack of communication with the outside world. He can’t find enough meaning to reach out and feel connection with others for his dream to become reality. As he sits in a park he ponders “(…) looking up, they are signaling to me.
Not indeed in actual words; that is, he could not read the language yet; but it was plain enough, this beauty, this exquisite beauty, and tears filled his eyes as he looked at the smoke words languishing and melting in the sky” (60) Septimus considers that birds and airplanes are trying to tell him something and communicate with him. In the of the book his lack of communication and connections lead him to suicide. This indicates that Septimus’s “madness” is striving for communication. From this, Woolf is showing us that Septimus’s ultimate failure is a direct result from his lack of communication. Therefore we can say that his aspiration of getting “healed” would never have worked no matter how much therapy or medication he would have gotten because the problem was rotted from his lack of communication and connection with his outside world. From Septimus, we can conclude that his dream failed because of his lack of communication, lack of meaning in the outside world and his feeling of unworthiness of happiness from his experiences in the war.
In the book “The Stranger” by Albert Camus, the main character Meursault doesn’t show much consideration or interest in other people.It seems as though he can’t show emotional or social connections and communication with others or even society as a whole. He says: A soldier smiled at me and asked if I’d been traveling long. I said, ‘Yes,’ just so I wouldn’t have to say anything else” (4). He essentially doesn’t feel like he has a purpose. Compared to the other characters in Hamlet, Passing, and Mrs. Dalloway, Meursault doesn’t seem to have a dream or long term goal as he lives in a more existentialist way, meaning that he doesn’t have a purpose in the world. On one hand we have Clare, Hamlet, and Septimus whom all have dreams but don’t achieve them or lose themselves while trying to achieve them because they don’t feel worth it, can’t find meaning and connections enough in the world, they are afraid someone is going to take it away or affect it or the need for other people’s approval.
However, on the other hand Meursault doesn’t have any dreams as he lives in an unmeaningful world and even though he in his own way achieve happiness at the end of the book in the case of him dying, not having a dream lead you to live a un-meaningful life. Arguably he does reach happiness at the end of the book as he says: “I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world (…) I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone” (123). Woolf shows us how he reached a state of peace but also that in order to reach happiness he had to feel “less alone”. From this, we can conclude that even if he doesn’t’ feel like he has a drawn-out goal and finish-line, every human’s goal is to reach peace and ultimate happiness which he in the end does through communication and feeling connected.
Therefore, in order to reach happiness or cross our finish line, we need to feel connections with the people and world around us. Globally, it has become a humanitarian goal to reach total and utter happiness. In 2012, they even invented a “world happiness report” as a way of measuring how happy each country around the world was. Happiness ultimately comes from a happy and peaceful soul. From The Stranger, by Albert Camus we can conclude that even though not everyone has a dream it has become a human “goal” to achieve happiness, as this too is what Camus contemplates he has reached at the end of the book when he dies.
Through the study of the books Hamlet, Passing, and Mrs. Dalloway we see characters journey throughout their goal-process. Most of these characters fail as they either commit suicide or essentially loses themselves. These characters fail to achieve their goals because they either don’t feel worthy of success and lack communication and connection to the outside world in the case of Septimus. In the case of Clare Kendry, she ultimately fails because of her jealousy towards Irene, her lack of communication and her fear of the people around her. Hamlet is different because he at the end does reach his goal, however, he does contemplates whether or not it is worth living which indicates that he psychologically has failed as he has no motivation to live. His dream fails because his rational thoughts take over when Gertrude and Ophelia “abandon” him.
This literature shows us that as humans feel alone and abandoned or can’t find their place or meaning throughout their lives and in the world, we fail at keeping our rational thoughts on track with our goals and therefore don’t achieve. Dreams and goals are important, big or small for humans because it makes us live in a meaningful society. When we lose connection and attention from others we lose our drive for success and so our dreams leading us to ultimate failure. It is, therefore, the reason why only 6% of people achieve their childhood dream. Feeling connected and communicating is vital not only when setting goals but also in our reach for peace and happiness.