The Hamlets and Don-Quixotes in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons College

Two years before Fathers and Sons was published, Turgenev gave a speech titled “Hamlet and Don Quixote,” in which he cross-analyzed Hamlet and Don Quixote as two antitheses of basic human tendencies. For Turgenev, Don Quixote represented the ultimate altruism and conviction. Although being a fool of naivety, Don Quixote has faith for life, and he tries to achieve it through self-sacrifices and “undeviating worship” (94). He is an enthusiast and thrives with delights when devoting himself to his ideas (95). Hamlet, on the other hand, represents the ultimate egoism and skepticism. He doubts everything – “pitilessly includes his own self in those doubts,” and his self-awareness tortures him and makes it impossible for him to love, as well as to be loved (96-97). Also, despite his intelligence, Hamlet dies as fate’s fool without any real action (98). Turgenev took a clear stand against the Hamlets but at the same time acknowledged that the Don Quixotes execute passions blindly to the point of ridicule instead of merit (104). Turgenev concluded with a dualistic viewpoint and suggested balancing the elements of analysis and emotion in a person rather than taking the extremities.

This pro-conservative viewing of life as a compromise...

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