The Sorrows of Young Werther

The Problem of Body in Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

As the referent of the individual, the body functions as a site for contradiction, resistance, and reassertion. It embodies a set of rules that delineates individual space through an exclusion of that which is not self. In Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, corporeality problematizes the relations between the self and its signifiers. Whereas it has been proposed that mind lies over matter, the body generates real opposition to the expression of genius. An entity based on the premise of finitude, the body bounds aspirations towards the infinite. As the episodes of Werther’s sketching, the bounded space of the individual body resists the lawless space of the sovereign genius.

Werther’s sketch serves as a preliminary study for the alternate reality that he envisions. The “dark eyes” (Goethe 14) that Werther attributes to the older boy are the same “dark eyes” (Goethe 25) that he endows to Charlotte1. Eyes that can melt from one body to another presuppose a fluid nature of reality2. Fluidity characterizes Werther’s selection of subject matter, bridging the gap between himself and the world. “I included the nearest fence, a barn door, and a few broken cartwheels,” he notes, “just as they came into view” (Goethe 14). Rather than actively selecting his subject matter, Werther sketches objects as they stream into his field of vision. He paints outdoors in order to minimize the barriers between himself and nature. The continuity that the objects experience as they flow from the outside world into Werther’s sketch implies a confluence of external and personal space.

At the same time, Werther perceives his body as an obstruction to the conflation of individual and exterior into a single entity. Like the sand that prevents him from drinking in Charlotte’s letter (Goethe 50), Werther’s body reminds him of his individuality and essential separateness from the external world. Decorporealization, a breaking of the damn of the body, thus proves necessary in Werther’s construction of a fluid reality. In declaring that “Nature alone forms the great artist,” (Goethe 14) Werther elides his body from the process of creation. Negating his own agency, he emphasizes that it is only “by accident” (Goethe 13) that he finds the two boys in the square and that it is only “without adding the slightest invention of . . . [his] own” (Goethe 14) that he completes the sketch. Reducing the artist to a conduit of nature, Werther presupposes self-destruction as a necessary counterpart to the self-creation of genius.

Wishing to become dissolved in and disseminated into the world’s reality, Werther’s yearning is profane, because it challenges God’s omnipotence. God can be everywhere at once only because He has no body that localizes His being. Corporeality makes one an individual, binding his existence to a finite locality. Perceiving the finitude imposed by his body, Werther muses, “What is man, that celebrated demigod . . . is he not . . . held back and restored to dull, cold consciousness at the very moment when he longs to lose himself in the fullness of the infinite?” (Goethe 124-125). Werther seeks to dissolve his body as a gesture towards boundlessness. So great is his narcissism that he aspires to God’s omnipotence4; to Werther, genius is to be no less than a bodiless, boundless Creator5. As he states, “That the life of man is but a dream is a thought which has occurred to many people, and I myself am constantly haunted by it” (Goethe 11). Werther seeks to be the creator of his own “dream”.

The body’s finitude poses a problem for the genius. Specifically bounded, corporeality limits genius in its essential irreproducibility. As Werther realizes, Lotte, once produced, cannot be reproduced: “Three times I have started Lotte’s portrait, and three times I have bungled it . . . Finally I gave up and cut her silhouette, and with that I shall be satisfied” (Goethe 50). Werther can fill the evacuated silhouette with himself, but he can never fill it with the real Lotte; although he can merge with his construction of Lotte, he cannot reproduce this identification with the real girl.

The body denies genius the ultimate act of creation through its reassertion of individual irreplaceability. Genius can destroy but cannot recreate that which has already been created. Only through the impossibility of decorporealization can there emerge a reality where artists can be lovers and where individuals can merge with the world.

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Werther’s Plunge; A Path of Self-Destruction and Nature’s Contribution

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

“What wastes my heart away is the corrosive power that lies concealed in the natural universe – in Nature, which has brought forth nothing that does not destroy both its neighbor and itself.” (Goethe, 66)

In Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe’s novella, The Sorrows of Young Werther, a romanticized concept of nature is used to illustrate the internal state of the protagonist, Werther. When the story begins, Werther is a young, optimistic artist who finds beauty and awe in all of nature. By the end, however, Werther is distressed and suicidal; he comes to see nature as a wild and destructive force. As he transforms from buoyant to deeply depressed, and his perception of nature as the tangible manifestation of God is destroyed and replaced by the dark view that nature is merely a sadistic monster. In his recognition of nature as a “corrosive power”, as declared in the above quotation, Werther throws himself onto a path of self- destruction that eventually leads to his death. Werther’s artistic nature, his devotion to nature, and his passion are the self- destructive qualities that provoke his suicide.

Werther’s artistic nature causes him to look at the world in terms of art and provides him with a romanticized concept of nature; both of which have the ability to affect him greatly. As his view on nature shifts, and he becomes more deeply involved with Charlotte, Werther loses his ability to participate in art and can no longer see the world in terms of art. The loss of artistic beauty in nature eventually drives Werther to his death. When the story opens, Werther describes a lush, countryside paradise as his new home and is lost in the endless wonders of nature. With this picturesque setting comes an infallible optimism and a deep appreciation for the artistic value of nature. The combination of the two, art and nature, hold a powerful sway over Werther’s emotions. Looking out at a rain-swept countryside, Charlotte’s poetic reference brings Werther to tears. “At once I remembered the glorious ode she had in mind, and was lost in the sensations that flooded me on hearing the name. It was more than I could bear; I bowed over her hand and kissed it, shedding tears of the greatest joy…”(Goethe, 43). Here, Werther allows himself to become swept up in his emotions and this plays a hand in his self- destruction at the end of the novel.

As he becomes more deeply involved with Charlotte and increasingly depressed and hopeless, Werther can no longer appreciate such scenes. As the situation progresses, Werther loses the ability to participate in art. This becomes evident in his journal entry from July 24th, when he states, “I do not know how to express myself; my imaginative powers are so weak, and everything slides and shifts before my soul, so that I cannot grasp the outlines” (55). By the end of the novel, nature is seen as “a monster”; a destructive machine that “…has brought forth nothing which does not destroy both its neighbor and itself” (66). Now Werther is swayed by the dark and demonic tendencies of nature and it is this sway, combined with his tragically strong devotion to nature, which aids in leading him to suicide.

Werther’s devotion to nature causes him to be deeply affected by the state of nature, which, as it shifts from being seen as inspiring to being seen as destructive, leads Werther to a path of self-destruction. From the beginning, we see that nature influences many of Werther’s thoughts and actions; he relates all aspects of life to nature. Nature is often connected to the purity of children and their separation from the rational, adult world, the same adult world that Werther longs to escape. In one journal entry, he confesses, “they are the happiest who, like children, live for the present moment” (31). And so Werther resolves to live in the present moment and allows nature to dictate his actions and feelings.

This supreme power that nature holds is justified by the citation of God in nature; nature becomes a deity and a force that controls Werther’s fate. When he is surrounded by nature, Werther can “feel the presence of the Almighty who created us in His image, the breath of the All-loving who bears us aloft in perpetual joy and holds us there” (27). In this way, nature essentially plays God. So when, in his deepening state of depression, Werther’s perception of nature shifts, nature comes to hold an adversely powerful effect over Werther. He realizes this in a letter to Wilhelm, stating, “My heart’s immense and ardent feeling for living Nature, which overwhelmed me with so great a joy and made the world about me a very paradise, has now become an unbearable torment, a demon that goes with me everywhere, torturing me” (65). In the end, this demon manifests itself in a violent storm that urges Werther to end his “sufferings and sorrows by plunging, passing on with a crash like the waves!” (112). These morbid sentiments are fueled by his uncontrollable passion, the driving force behind his rash decisions. With Werther’s devotion to nature evoking extreme emotional states, and his passion causing him to act on these surges of emotion, Werther is thrown onto a deadly path that results in his self- destruction.

Werther’s passion is a driving force in his self- destruction because it dictates his beliefs and decisions and, combined with the influences of nature, provides suicide as an answer to his woes. Throughout the novel, Werther’s passion is a source of contention between Charlotte and Albert and himself. When an argument arises, Werther allows his passion to propel him into heated engagement in the dispute. Metaphorically, a battle of reason versus passion rages in the subtext of the book; one personified in Albert, Charlotte’s worthy betrothed, and the other in Werther. In the end, reason presides over passion and Albert remains with Charlotte.

In a moral debate with Albert over the justification of suicide, Werther calls upon us to “consider a man, confined within his bounds, influenced by impressions, beset by ideas, till one day a growing passion overthrows his contemplative composure and destroys him” (62). He goes on to argue that it is senseless for a rational man to try to reason with the destroyed man, because reason cannot change or evoke emotions. Werther has succeeded in describing his own dilemma; he is a man influenced by impressions, overthrown by his growing passions, and destroyed. Reason and logic are of no use to him; all his acts are born of a wild passion and a force of nature. The devouring, self- destructive monster that nature has become evokes the self-destructive nature that lies within Werther. His artistic nature, devotion to nature, and passion are all simply integral character traits, always existing, their self- destructive properties lying dormant within him, waiting to go off like a timed- bomb. These lethal traits result in Werther’s suicide: one complete and final action and the culmination of his self-destruction.

It has been argued, however, that the change in nature is merely a metaphorical reflection of Werther’s frenzied mind, and does not actively contribute to his suicide. It is true that Werther’s increasing desperation is accompanied by an increasing violence of nature and therefore it is plausible that one is a reflection of the other. However, what is not taken into account here is the element of choice. Werther chooses to change the way in which he views nature, because the depletion of his artistic tendencies calls for a re-evaluation of the role of nature. In coming to see nature as a “corrosive power” (66), Werther embarks on a self- destructive path that is fueled by the new, destructive properties he associates with nature.

“What wastes my heart away is the corrosive power that lies concealed in the natural universe – in Nature, which has brought forth nothing that does not destroy both its neighbor and itself” (66). Werther’s artistic nature, devotion to nature, and passion all play a hand in his self- destruction. Werther is his own un-doing; he brings forth nothing that does not destroy itself. But what about destroying his neighbor? He has certainly stained the lives of Charlotte and Albert and perhaps they have been set on their own path of self- destruction, the catalyst being Werther’s death in the place of nature. If so, this would increase the extent and effect of the destructive powers of nature and of Werther. Werther has become part of a chain reaction involving the destruction of all that surrounds him. Here, it is important to consider the cost of our ambitions and passions and even the self- destructive traits that lie dormant within us. Werther’s self-destruction and the destruction of others are brought about by an inevitable, natural chain of effect, a ‘fate’ governed by a new God, Nature.

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Aristocratic and Bourgeois Ideology in The Sorrows of Young Werther

August 23, 2019 by Essay Writer

Literary critics such as Karl Grun and Johannes Scherr have propped up Johann Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther as revolutionary social criticism that paved the way for many of the rebellions in 1848 – Grun even arguing that the novel prepared the grounds for the French Revolution. But as one of the most prominent figures of sentimentality in Western literature, Werther is difficult to construe as a social critic without acknowledging the barrier his affect presents in taking on such a role. Friedrich Engels even accused Grun of “confusing genuine social criticism with Werther’s lamentations about the discrepancy between bourgeois reality and his equally bourgeois illusion. Werther, says Engels, is a ‘schwarmerischer Tranensack’ (dreamy lachrymal sack)” (Duncan 76).

Can we, then, denounce the criticism Werther voices as not genuine because of his bourgeois identification and his self-serving vision of social order? Can we understand the grumbling of a “dreamy lachrymal sack” as social commentary? Although Engel raises legitimate concerns surrounding a critical reading of The Sorrows of Young Werther, we dilute the significance of a series of letters Werther dedicates to deriding his aristocratic company in the second half of the novel without engaging in a critical analysis of the novel. His criticism is particularly informed by his characterization of genius as torrential and transcendental. While Werther’s opinions on class division and on the romanticization of labor seem to detract from his ability to criticize the social order, Goethe complicates the temptation to dismiss Werther’s polemic against aristocratic society by distancing him from the almost equally problematic bourgeoisie at the end of the novel.

Werther’s hostility towards the aristocracy stems from a clash of ideologies: a barrier to class mobility bulwarked by privileging an individual’s pedigree over his strength of character is utterly detestable to Werther because it demeans that what makes him exceptional. In a letter dated 26 May, Werther jests, “Oh, my friends! You ask why the torrent of genius so rarely pours forth, so rarely floods and thunders and overwhelms your astonished soul? – Because, dear friends, on either bank dwell the cool, respectable gentlemen, whose summer-houses, tulip beds and cabbage patches would all be washed away, and who are therefore highly skilled in averting future dangers in good time, by damming and digging channels” (33). Werther explains the constraint placed on the genius through his relationship with respectable gentlemen. Although Werther never explicitly claims that the respectable gentleman is a figure of the aristocracy and the genius is a figure of himself, the similarity within the groupings is striking. The genius is characterized by an image of complete surrender, which is similar to Werther’s disposition while writing the letter 10 May; the respectable gentleman is associated with scheming and self-gain, two qualities that Werther criticizes in the nobility he meets working under the Ambassador. Werther’s criticism of the aristocracy is that this group values future gains over pleasure in the present. Shortly after working for the ambassador, Werther complains, “the tedium of these awful people cooped up together here! and their greed for rank, and the way they are forever watchful and alert for gain or precedence: the most wretched and abominable of passions” (75). His judgment becomes increasingly explicit as he continues his argument – he begins by pointing out their “greed for rank,” implying that they are not satisfied with their current status. Then he moves on to further denounce the aristocratic mentality that is consumed with rank by pointing that aristocrats are specifically “watchful” and “alert” for gain. Here he is more explicit: Werther is frustrated with the aristocratic focus on future advances rather than on satisfaction in the present. This is especially “wretched and abominable” for Werther, who tells Wilhelm, “I am so happy, dear friend, so absorbed in this feeling of peaceful existence” (26). Unlike the aristocracy that seeks happiness in future gains, Werther believes that happiness should be “absorbed” in the present. For this reason, he claims, “It is enough that the source of my wretchedness lies within myself, as the source of all my joy once did” (98). By rejecting the aristocratic mentality of looking to the future and by focusing on the beautiful transience of existence, Werther gains autonomy: he is his own source of both pleasure and dissatisfaction.

Although it is easy to broadly categorize Werther as an advocate for the working class, it is important to note Werther’s own problematic viewpoints. This task becomes important as this essay shifts from examining Werther’s criticism of the German aristocracy to Goethe’s own criticism of society and its relationship to the type of person that Werther represents. Werther romanticizes labor by stating, “It is good that my heart can feel the simple and innocent pleasure a man knows when the cabbage he eats at a table is one he grew himself; the pleasure he takes. . . in remembering evenings he watered it and the delight he felt in its daily growth” (45). By portraying farming through an idyllic vignette, Werther creates the narrative that the farmer enjoys his labor. This construct is destructive for two reasons. First, Werther praises the picturesque image of a man dependent on nature for sustenance, but completely ignores the arduous nature of agrarian life and thereby glorifies the image of the farmer without sympathizing with any of his struggles. Second, he imposes his own narrative on a group of people whom he knows “are not equal, nor can be” (28). He does not know the experiences of a farmer because he is not a farmer. By suggesting that the working class enjoys its labor, Werther perpetuates a narrative that the upper class uses to oppress its subordinates; in Werther’s mind, the labor of the working class is necessary to my social standing and there’s no moral cost to thrive on the backs of these simple people because they enjoy it! Yet, although Werther holds to beliefs that work against the lower class, Goethe still makes it clear through Christ metaphors and the juxtaposition of Albert and Werther that, even if marked with hypocrisy, criticism is preferable to inaction.

Albert serves to embody the upper-class ideals of the wealth and respectability of the bourgeoisie, and thus serves as a foil to Werther. Even though he is competing with Albert for Lotte’s affections, Werther declares, “I cannot help esteeming Albert. The coolness of his temper contrasts strongly with the impetuosity of mine” (22). Moving beyond the well-mannered behavior that earns recognition from Werther, even the editor exalts Albert as a “pure-hearted man,” establishing that he is a man viewed positively by society. Yet, the pure-hearted Albert is the one to give Werther the pistol to kill himself. A symbolic reading indicates that the bourgeois society perceives characters that hold to beliefs similar to Werther’s as threatening to its lifestyle and seeks to eradicate these individuals. Furthermore, Werther compares himself to Christ, asking, “What is the Fate of Man, but to. . . drink the cup of bitterness,” (99) establishing parallels to Christ. After all, Christ similarly asked God to take his cup from him while praying in Gethsemane before his crucifixion. When Werther recognizes that out of Albert, Lotte, and himself, one must die, he acknowledges that there is no room for his criticisms of the German bourgeoisie and aristocracy and, like Christ, chooses to sacrifice himself for the “sinners” Albert and Lotte, who represent the bourgeoisie. At the scene of his death blood was everywhere — “a vein was opened in his arm; the blood flowed” (134). The overpowering images of blood suggest that Werther was a sacrifice: in order to maintain a society in which people like Albert and Lotte live and thrive, social critics must die and suffer. By comparing the latter stages of Werther’s life to those of Christ’s life, Goethe puts Werther on a moral high ground relative to the rest of his society. Although his imperfections kept him from “saving” his class and reversing the rhetoric of the bourgeoisie that oppresses the working class, Werther was at least able to partly save himself from the criticisms he raises, even if he did so through his death.

Through the lens of social criticism, The Sorrows of Young Werther can be interpreted as a novel centered around class structure and the perils of its effects on society. Werther serves as a voice to critique the greedy, calculating, and rigid upper class. His death, depicted using religious motifs, indicates Goethe’s criticism of German society, a society in which individuals who advocate for social change have no place.

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Existential Statements in The Sorrows of Young Werther

August 7, 2019 by Essay Writer

It is presumable that the main character of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther is a man from whose thoughts we can glean wise and important statements about life. Throughout many of the passages, Werther offers us his unique perspective on various elements of living including survival, freedom, mortality and moral outlook. Mainly, he is speaking to his dear friend Wilhelm, and so it is clear that these are personal letters containing deep thoughts and feelings. However, contradictions arise in the letters that will be examined. I therefore contend that, although much of what he says is eloquent and thought-provoking, it does not all necessarily constitute a series of wise life lessons. Perhaps there is an available wealth of truths in what Werther says, but whatever life lessons he imparts come not only from what he thinks but how and to whom he presents these ideas, and in what ways he applies them to his own life.He speaks in great detail about how he views the rest of human existence. This outlook is not necessarily positive; in fact, he is quite critical of the people he encounters. In the letter from May 17th, Werther writes, “The human race is but a monotonous affair. Most of them labour the greater part of their time for mere subsistence; and the scanty portion of freedom which remains to them so troubles them that they use every exertion to get rid of it. Oh, the destiny of man!” (Goethe, 6) In the same letter, he also happens to say “Alas, that the friend of my youth is gone! Alas, that I ever knew her! I might say to myself, “You are a dreamer to seek what is not to be found here below.” (Goethe, 7) What this appears to say is that there is a certain caliber of person, and that people are comparable to a certain ideal. In his case, Werther seems to not be able to find anyone equivalent or better in quality to his dear departed friend. He seeks company, but what is paradoxical about this is how little he appreciates the bulk of the company he receives, also believing that he is adored by those who meet him. Perhaps he is not utterly wrong in perceiving that people find it necessary to suppress certain talents, emotions or impulses for practical reasons. This is brought up in the letter from May 22nd, where he writes “…I consider the narrow limits within which our active and inquiring faculties are confined; when I see how all our energies are wasted in providing for mere necessities, which again have no further end than to prolong a wretched existence…” (Goethe, 8) He argues our passivity in this world makes us out to be no more than large children, who are attracted and repelled by a few sensory things, but do not look to anything for any deeper meaning. What’s more, he proposes that to other bodies in the universe, the dead individual is immediately mourned, and then is soon forgotten. In the letter from October 26th he says “I often contribute to their happiness, and my heart seems as if it could not beat without them; and yet — if I were to die, if I were to be summoned from the midst of this circle, would they feel — or how long would they feel the void which my loss would make in their existence?” (Goethe, 78) This tells me that, not only is Werther just as willing to discard the human race as he is eager to have it embrace him, he is frightened his own life will fade away into nothingness, and all the people who apparently adored him will enough forget him. There may be a life lesson here, but it is not necessarily coming from his philosophy alone. The paradoxical, insecure and irrational side of man is demonstrated in Werther, who generalizes the universe in order to account for his own fears and wishes.The general dissatisfaction of Werther adds to the irony of his character when one considers his disdain for what he calls “ill-humour” (Goethe, 29). In his letter from July 1st, he writes ‘”We should daily repeat to ourselves,” I exclaimed, “that we should not interfere with our friends, unless to leave them in possession of their own joys, and increase their happiness by sharing it with them! But when their souls are tormented by a violent passion, or their hearts rent with grief, is it in your power to afford them the slightest consolation?”‘ (Goethe, 29-30) Maybe there is something to be said for overcoming hardship with optimism; but what’s truly interesting about his argument are the lingering contradictions between his words here and other letters. His dissatisfaction with society and with himself, seen in the May and October letters is overlooked in this one. Something that’s obvious about Werther is that he feels things very sharply, so it’s interesting that his apparent desire would be to isolate pain and share happiness. The contradiction here is that he expresses pain all the time, as we saw in previous letters. He suggests pain is personal and yet when he feels it he demands and ear. This can easily be seen in his letter from August 18th, where his despairing view of existence comes out fully: “My heart is wasted by the thought of that destructive power which lies concealed in every part of universal nature.” (Goethe, 47) The idea of mortal frailty is bothersome to him in that he realizes that in life there is inevitable death. He seems to be having recurring fears of passing through life unsatisfied and dying and fading away into oblivion. This may be why he turns to God for consolation: it’s something perfect and eternal. This seems not like someone with the moral fortitude to overcome his fears, rather someone consumed by insecurities and needs to be coddled and reassured. As far as life statements are concerned, what we can gather from Werther is that a man consumed by ills would possibly wish to be without them.He comes to this realization himself in his letter from August 12th, in which he writes “My good friend, if resistance be strength, how can the highest degree of resistance be a weakness?…Human nature, I continued, “has its limits. It is able to endure a certain degree of joy, sorrow, and pain, but becomes annihilated as soon as this measure is exceeded. The question, therefore, is, not whether a man is strong or weak, but whether he is able to endure the measure of his sufferings.” (Goethe, 42-43) Werther reiterates the notion that pain and despair cannot be generalized, but can only be examined in cases. He determines that when one is sick and dies, it is very much akin to ending one’s life after a deep depression. However, he also likens suicide to seeking remedy, much like what casting off ill-humour is. I believe this relationship between sickness and remedy is what Albert calls “all paradox” (Goethe, 43). The lesson here is in the paradox: there seems to be a demonstrated duality of the human condition. He who is immersed in pain, dreams of discarding it, and yet seems to identify himself by it. And despite this wish for universal happiness, one only has a threshold for so much until those feelings need to be expressed in one way or another.Can we then say that Werther is a great thinker abounding with relevant life lessons? I think it’s fair that Werther’s hopes of universal happiness, remembrance, freedom and Godliness are all relevant things, maybe even things to aspire to. But they are not necessarily all useful as statements on life in general. However, his internal paradoxes, contradictions and exuberant irrationalism tell us more about the dualistic and contradictory possibilities of the individual than his words do. His lessons are found in his character more than anywhere else, therefore making them seem like all the things man could be as opposed to all the things man is presumed to be.Goethe, Johannes Wolfgang von. Trans. R. Dillon Boylan. The Sorrows of Young Werther. New York: Mondial, c2006.

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The Fatal Weapons

July 10, 2019 by Essay Writer

The novel The Sorrows of Young Werther engages with a complex discourse of communication. It deals with a society highly lacking in personal communication, yet desperately in need of it. Although Werther longs for intimate face to face communication, books mediate his life, which leads to isolation, and ultimately suicide. The form the novel takes illustrates a tension that plagues Werther. Though he wants to express himself, it is always through letters. He describes his passionate love not to Lotte but to Wilhelm. Furthermore, the reader is never allowed to experience any of Wilhelm’s answers, producing a kind of unrequited dialogue, or a failed communication. The desire to actually touch Lotte tortures him, as he states “How many times have I been on the point of embracing her!”(113). Yet when he and Lotte do finally embrace, it is via a book.Books, or more specifically epic poems, seem to dictate Werther’s life. In Book One Werther is consumed by Homer and the “patriarchal ideas”(7) his works demonstrate. Even when he attempts to return to nature, he carries a copy of his book to read under shade while enjoying a cool beverage. He imagines himself to be Odysseus and Lotte “Penelope” (33). As he reads The Odyssey the tone and pace of the novel is forward looking and centers Werther as the hero. The world is ruled by God and God’s actions are comprehensible by humans. However, in Book Two, Werther is reading Ossian, which Werther presents as full of howling “gales…and the lament of the maiden who pines for death”(110). Ossian presents a Godless world ruled by natural law to which everyone is susceptible and unable to control. Therefore Book Two takes on a much darker tone leading up to Werther’s suicide. Book Two, influenced by the wailing, unanswered cries for help and deafening winds of Ossian marks the beginning of Werther’s most extreme isolation. He voluntarily removes himself from Walheim but becomes greatly annoyed at the society he finds himself in; most irritated by the “disgraceful social conditions”(81), and does not enjoy the company of anyone but Fraulein Von B. However, his relationship with her marks an interesting tactic toward communication with Lotte. We see very few letters addressed to Lotte, therefore their subjects become highly important. During this time he sends her letters that declare Fraulein von B. to be a lesser version of Lotte: “How often she must do homage to you! She is not compelled to- she does it voluntarily, loves to hear about you, and loves you”(85). He uses these subtle compliments as a kind of attack, intending to make her jealous. These kinds of subtexts show up more frequently through the second book and act as a kind of crying out on the part of Werther. Another significant moment in the novel comes again in the form of writing: “Will you be good enough to lend me your pistols for my intended journey. And goodbye”(158). This dubious note contains both a harmless request and an overt message. Werther is putting Albert and Lotte through a test. Albert is already aware that Werther considers suicide an option per their earlier conversation, and Lotte is aware that he is in love with her and has been recently rejected. Therefore, the “goodbye” is quite loaded. The editor makes us even further aware of this moment when he says, “If some happy intimacy had brought them together before this…perhaps our friend might have been saved”(159). This implies that what Werther needed from Albert and Lotte was communication, rather than pistols. The novel implicates Albert and Lotte in Werther’s death because of their silence. Another kind of communication takes place here, between the reader and the editor. The editor subtly accuses Albert of purposely ignoring Werther’s warnings that he was suicidal, which almost transforms the pistols into murder weapons. The editor claims “Werther had never…kept his longing to depart from this world a secret”(159), and further explains that Albert’s cavalier attitude toward the possibility of suicide had affected Lotte’s interpretation of the threat: “This may have set her mind at rest for a time, whenever her thoughts presented to her the tragic picture- but it also prevented her from communicating to her husband the anxieties that tormented her at this moment”(160). Again, the question of the pistols become a test. Albert makes Lotte physically responsible for passing the pistols to Werther, for if she refuses she will have to answer “Albert’s questioning glance”(161). Though there is very little speech between Albert and Lotte, the editor fills in the silence with condemning words like: “guilt”, “foreboding”, and “fatal weapons”(161). As Albert makes Lotte responsible, Werther takes it to an extreme level. Again, communicating his deepest feelings through a letter, he thanks her for the pistols, writing “they have passed through your hands; you have wiped the dust from them. I kiss them a thousand times because you have touched them”(162). This letter can be read as a thank you or a final goodbye, but also as a deeply troubled and veiled accusation. As this is a suicide note, the letter will become Lotte’s inheritance. Before killing himself, he ensures Albert and Lotte’s ensuing misery and attempts to kill Lotte with guilt and grief. The multiple layers of communication both in the scene of the pistols as well as throughout the novel reflect a seriously flawed language for discussing emotions such as Werther experiences, and his suicide serves as a cautionary tale for misled, untrue, and ignored attempts at intimacy.

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Werther’s Plunge; A Path of Self-Destruction and Nature’s Contribution

June 19, 2019 by Essay Writer

“What wastes my heart away is the corrosive power that lies concealed in the natural universe – in Nature, which has brought forth nothing that does not destroy both its neighbor and itself.” (Goethe, 66) In Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe’s novella, The Sorrows of Young Werther, a romanticized concept of nature is used to illustrate the internal state of the protagonist, Werther. When the story begins, Werther is a young, optimistic artist who finds beauty and awe in all of nature. By the end, however, Werther is distressed and suicidal; he comes to see nature as a wild and destructive force. As he transforms from buoyant to deeply depressed, and his perception of nature as the tangible manifestation of God is destroyed and replaced by the dark view that nature is merely a sadistic monster. In his recognition of nature as a “corrosive power”, as declared in the above quotation, Werther throws himself onto a path of self- destruction that eventually leads to his death. Werther’s artistic nature, his devotion to nature, and his passion are the self- destructive qualities that provoke his suicide. Werther’s artistic nature causes him to look at the world in terms of art and provides him with a romanticized concept of nature; both of which have the ability to affect him greatly. As his view on nature shifts, and he becomes more deeply involved with Charlotte, Werther loses his ability to participate in art and can no longer see the world in terms of art. The loss of artistic beauty in nature eventually drives Werther to his death. When the story opens, Werther describes a lush, countryside paradise as his new home and is lost in the endless wonders of nature. With this picturesque setting comes an infallible optimism and a deep appreciation for the artistic value of nature. The combination of the two, art and nature, hold a powerful sway over Werther’s emotions. Looking out at a rain-swept countryside, Charlotte’s poetic reference brings Werther to tears. “At once I remembered the glorious ode she had in mind, and was lost in the sensations that flooded me on hearing the name. It was more than I could bear; I bowed over her hand and kissed it, shedding tears of the greatest joy…”(Goethe, 43). Here, Werther allows himself to become swept up in his emotions and this plays a hand in his self- destruction at the end of the novel. As he becomes more deeply involved with Charlotte and increasingly depressed and hopeless, Werther can no longer appreciate such scenes. As the situation progresses, Werther loses the ability to participate in art. This becomes evident in his journal entry from July 24th, when he states, “I do not know how to express myself; my imaginative powers are so weak, and everything slides and shifts before my soul, so that I cannot grasp the outlines” (55). By the end of the novel, nature is seen as “a monster”; a destructive machine that “…has brought forth nothing which does not destroy both its neighbor and itself” (66). Now Werther is swayed by the dark and demonic tendencies of nature and it is this sway, combined with his tragically strong devotion to nature, which aids in leading him to suicide. Werther’s devotion to nature causes him to be deeply affected by the state of nature, which, as it shifts from being seen as inspiring to being seen as destructive, leads Werther to a path of self-destruction. From the beginning, we see that nature influences many of Werther’s thoughts and actions; he relates all aspects of life to nature. Nature is often connected to the purity of children and their separation from the rational, adult world, the same adult world that Werther longs to escape. In one journal entry, he confesses, “they are the happiest who, like children, live for the present moment” (31). And so Werther resolves to live in the present moment and allows nature to dictate his actions and feelings. This supreme power that nature holds is justified by the citation of God in nature; nature becomes a deity and a force that controls Werther’s fate. When he is surrounded by nature, Werther can “feel the presence of the Almighty who created us in His image, the breath of the All-loving who bears us aloft in perpetual joy and holds us there” (27). In this way, nature essentially plays God. So when, in his deepening state of depression, Werther’s perception of nature shifts, nature comes to hold an adversely powerful effect over Werther. He realizes this in a letter to Wilhelm, stating, “My heart’s immense and ardent feeling for living Nature, which overwhelmed me with so great a joy and made the world about me a very paradise, has now become an unbearable torment, a demon that goes with me everywhere, torturing me” (65). In the end, this demon manifests itself in a violent storm that urges Werther to end his “sufferings and sorrows by plunging, passing on with a crash like the waves!” (112). These morbid sentiments are fueled by his uncontrollable passion, the driving force behind his rash decisions. With Werther’s devotion to nature evoking extreme emotional states, and his passion causing him to act on these surges of emotion, Werther is thrown onto a deadly path that results in his self- destruction.Werther’s passion is a driving force in his self- destruction because it dictates his beliefs and decisions and, combined with the influences of nature, provides suicide as an answer to his woes. Throughout the novel, Werther’s passion is a source of contention between Charlotte and Albert and himself. When an argument arises, Werther allows his passion to propel him into heated engagement in the dispute. Metaphorically, a battle of reason versus passion rages in the subtext of the book; one personified in Albert, Charlotte’s worthy betrothed, and the other in Werther. In the end, reason presides over passion and Albert remains with Charlotte. In a moral debate with Albert over the justification of suicide, Werther calls upon us to “consider a man, confined within his bounds, influenced by impressions, beset by ideas, till one day a growing passion overthrows his contemplative composure and destroys him” (62). He goes on to argue that it is senseless for a rational man to try to reason with the destroyed man, because reason cannot change or evoke emotions. Werther has succeeded in describing his own dilemma; he is a man influenced by impressions, overthrown by his growing passions, and destroyed. Reason and logic are of no use to him; all his acts are born of a wild passion and a force of nature. The devouring, self- destructive monster that nature has become evokes the self-destructive nature that lies within Werther. His artistic nature, devotion to nature, and passion are all simply integral character traits, always existing, their self- destructive properties lying dormant within him, waiting to go off like a timed- bomb. These lethal traits result in Werther’s suicide: one complete and final action and the culmination of his self-destruction.It has been argued, however, that the change in nature is merely a metaphorical reflection of Werther’s frenzied mind, and does not actively contribute to his suicide. It is true that Werther’s increasing desperation is accompanied by an increasing violence of nature and therefore it is plausible that one is a reflection of the other. However, what is not taken into account here is the element of choice. Werther chooses to change the way in which he views nature, because the depletion of his artistic tendencies calls for a re-evaluation of the role of nature. In coming to see nature as a “corrosive power” (66), Werther embarks on a self- destructive path that is fueled by the new, destructive properties he associates with nature. “What wastes my heart away is the corrosive power that lies concealed in the natural universe – in Nature, which has brought forth nothing that does not destroy both its neighbor and itself” (66). Werther’s artistic nature, devotion to nature, and passion all play a hand in his self- destruction. Werther is his own un-doing; he brings forth nothing that does not destroy itself. But what about destroying his neighbor? He has certainly stained the lives of Charlotte and Albert and perhaps they have been set on their own path of self- destruction, the catalyst being Werther’s death in the place of nature. If so, this would increase the extent and effect of the destructive powers of nature and of Werther. Werther has become part of a chain reaction involving the destruction of all that surrounds him. Here, it is important to consider the cost of our ambitions and passions and even the self- destructive traits that lie dormant within us. Werther’s self-destruction and the destruction of others are brought about by an inevitable, natural chain of effect, a ‘fate’ governed by a new God, Nature.

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The Problem of Body in Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther

May 8, 2019 by Essay Writer

As the referent of the individual, the body functions as a site for contradiction, resistance, and reassertion. It embodies a set of rules that delineates individual space through an exclusion of that which is not self. In Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, corporeality problematizes the relations between the self and its signifiers. Whereas it has been proposed that mind lies over matter, the body generates real opposition to the expression of genius. An entity based on the premise of finitude, the body bounds aspirations towards the infinite. As the episodes of Werther’s sketching, the bounded space of the individual body resists the lawless space of the sovereign genius.Werther’s sketch serves as a preliminary study for the alternate reality that he envisions. The “dark eyes” (Goethe 14) that Werther attributes to the older boy are the same “dark eyes” (Goethe 25) that he endows to Charlotte1. Eyes that can melt from one body to another presuppose a fluid nature of reality2. Fluidity characterizes Werther’s selection of subject matter, bridging the gap between himself and the world. “I included the nearest fence, a barn door, and a few broken cartwheels,” he notes, “just as they came into view” (Goethe 14). Rather than actively selecting his subject matter, Werther sketches objects as they stream into his field of vision. He paints outdoors in order to minimize the barriers between himself and nature. The continuity that the objects experience as they flow from the outside world into Werther’s sketch implies a confluence of external and personal space.At the same time, Werther perceives his body as an obstruction to the conflation of individual and exterior into a single entity. Like the sand that prevents him from drinking in Charlotte’s letter (Goethe 50), Werther’s body reminds him of his individuality and essential separateness from the external world. Decorporealization, a breaking of the damn of the body, thus proves necessary in Werther’s construction of a fluid reality. In declaring that “Nature alone forms the great artist,” (Goethe 14) Werther elides his body from the process of creation. Negating his own agency, he emphasizes that it is only “by accident” (Goethe 13) that he finds the two boys in the square and that it is only “without adding the slightest invention of . . . [his] own” (Goethe 14) that he completes the sketch. Reducing the artist to a conduit of nature, Werther presupposes self-destruction as a necessary counterpart to the self-creation of genius.Wishing to become dissolved in and disseminated into the world’s reality, Werther’s yearning is profane, because it challenges God’s omnipotence. God can be everywhere at once only because He has no body that localizes His being. Corporeality makes one an individual, binding his existence to a finite locality. Perceiving the finitude imposed by his body, Werther muses, “What is man, that celebrated demigod . . . is he not . . . held back and restored to dull, cold consciousness at the very moment when he longs to lose himself in the fullness of the infinite?” (Goethe 124-125). Werther seeks to dissolve his body as a gesture towards boundlessness. So great is his narcissism that he aspires to God’s omnipotence4; to Werther, genius is to be no less than a bodiless, boundless Creator5. As he states, “That the life of man is but a dream is a thought which has occurred to many people, and I myself am constantly haunted by it” (Goethe 11). Werther seeks to be the creator of his own “dream”.The body’s finitude poses a problem for the genius. Specifically bounded, corporeality limits genius in its essential irreproducibility. As Werther realizes, Lotte, once produced, cannot be reproduced: “Three times I have started Lotte’s portrait, and three times I have bungled it . . . Finally I gave up and cut her silhouette, and with that I shall be satisfied” (Goethe 50). Werther can fill the evacuated silhouette with himself, but he can never fill it with the real Lotte; although he can merge with his construction of Lotte, he cannot reproduce this identification with the real girl.The body denies genius the ultimate act of creation through its reassertion of individual irreplaceability. Genius can destroy but cannot recreate that which has already been created. Only through the impossibility of decorporealization can there emerge a reality where artists can be lovers and where individuals can merge with the world.

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The Sorrows of Young Werther: Passion vs. Rationality

April 23, 2019 by Essay Writer

In “The Sorrows of Young Werther”, by Goethe, one of the prevalent themes is the control that passion wields over one’s actions. Passion may cause one to act irrationally, a belief that Goethe espoused despite the paradigm that dominated the society of his day: that man should allow rationality and common sense to control his life. The story takes place in Germany in 1771, and is written in epistolary form. The letters are composed by a lovesick man named Werther, destined to take his life because the object of his affection is married to another, and are addressed to a trusted friend named Wilhelm. Werther takes a romantic view on life, letting his heart and passions guide him. He sees death as a heroic escape, often favors imagination over reality, and hates the fact that the men of his time are mechanical, static conformists that allow so-called “common sense” to rule their decisions.Passion and romantic ideals lead Werther down the path that will ultimately end in his demise. When speaking of a friend, Werther states that “he admires my intelligence and my talents more than my heart, which is, after all, my only pride, and the fountainhead of all – all strength, happiness and misery” (97). Because he lets his heart guide him, the misery he speaks of outweighs his strength and happiness. Werther lets his imagination take control of his mind more often than his common sense, yet another trait of romantics. He believes that one is happiest when under the spell of delusions, as can be seen when he writes of a woman described to him by a boy: I shall try to see her as soon as possible, or rather, after giving it a second thought, I shall avoid her. It is better that I see her through the eyes of her lover; she might not appear to my own eyes, in reality, as I now see her; and why should I destroy the lovely image I already possess? (20) Werther prefers an image, a picture existing solely in his head, to an uncertain reality.It is his heart that Werther listens to, and his heart that he feels he must sacrifice. It appears, on the surface, that Goethe is reprimanding those who have the same perspective on life as Werther by murdering him at the end of the novel. It seems that those who oppose him are, in fact, “correct” in their actions.Nearly every character in the novel, with few exceptions, subscribe to classical ideals and dogmas. Classicists, the opposite of romantics, favor uniformity, common sense, rationality, and the mind over romantic ideas. Throughout the book, Werther’s friends demand that he gain some common sense: Wilhelm writes, “pull yourself together and try to get rid of an unfortunate passion that is bound to burn up all your energy” (54). Wilhelm tries to convince Werther to toss aside his passion, the very emotion on which he thrives. Wilhelm is aware that should Werther continue to live with such passion in his life, his energy will soon be spent. Even Lotte, the woman Werther loves and lives for, hopes that he will turn away from his irrationality: Werther! You can, you must see us again; only do be reasonable. Oh, why did you have to be born with this violent temper, this uncontrollable clinging passion for everything you touch! Please…be reasonable! Your intellect, your knowledge, your talents, should offer you such a variety of satisfactions! (138) The word “reasonable” is repeated to emphasize the way that Werther should be, according to the classical ideals of the time. Lotte speaks of intellect and knowledge, both of which are basic facets of classicism. Knowledge is based on facts, and facts are unchanging, solid, and static; these are traits that Werther’s friends try to impose on him throughout the book. However, Goethe is not trying to encourage people to embrace the classical outlook on life. Although it may appear so, he is in fact doing just the opposite; into Werther’s suicide, Goethe weaves heroism, sympathy, and honor.Throughout his life, Werther has been urged to embrace rationality and think things through. Ultimately, however, he realizes that he cannot control his passions; to the contrary, his passions control him. Werther meets another like him, who cannot control himself either: “his passion for the woman…had daily grown on him, to the degree that he finally had not known what to do…He had not been able to eat, to drink or sleep; he had felt as if something was choking him(103).” Werther, too, feels as if some higher force is controlling his actions. Werther is not punished for letting his passion rule him; he takes his life, and this is what he has longed for more than anything. He welcomes death with open arms: he “shuddered with awe and also with longing” (133). Werther’s death is heroic, at least in his eyes; this is proven when he reads from some songs of Ossian to Lotte. He says, “Tall thou art on the hill; fair among the sons of the vale. But thou shalt fall like Morar; the mourner shall sit on thy tomb” (149). He envisions his own death as similarly heroic, with Lotte weeping for him atop his grave, because he was brave enough to take his own life. He argues profusely with Albert, Lotte’s husband, when Albert says that suicide is weak: “For it is certainly easier to die than bravely to bear a life of misery” (59). Werther never changes his view on this subject, believing that suicide is grand. Goethe also uses the epistolary form to glorify Werther’s death. It is common for heroes to be described as god-like, immortal, and impervious. Because the letters show the passage of time and end with Werther’s death, Werther is dropped to the rank of a mere mortal. However, he is still a hero, and the fact that his death is imminent only suggests that he is normal: an everyman hero. In this mannner, readers are encouraged to relate to Werther, and to embrace his romantic ideas.Though “The Sorrows of Young Werther” appears to praise the classical outlook on life, a closer reading reveals that Goethe is, to the contrary, espousing the romantic view. It is the classical element in those around Werther that kills him, for none of his friends can stand the fact that he has let his heart guide him through life. His death touches those close to them, despite their many differences. It is passion that rules Werther: he can do nothing to appease his heart, and must ultimately accept that perhaps this is simply how life is.

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Werther As a Force of Nature

March 21, 2019 by Essay Writer

From the beginning of The Sorrows of Young Werther, Werther emphasizes his connection to Nature in order to embellish the tragically creative persona he presents to Wilhelm. As his infatuation with Charlotte grows and he laments the injustice and misfortune of his situation, his views distort; we see his self-perceived affinity with Nature becoming more twisted and less peaceful. A turning point in this tranformation can be seen in his entry of 18 August; Nature is no longer sublime and beautiful to him, but merely sublime and filled with the potential for destruction: Werther finds himself paralyzed by the thoughts of his own destructive powers.Werther is describing the anguish of his unrequited love for Charlotte, which has transformed his previous love for Nature into torment. The extent of his torment is described in the form of a vision: “It is as if a curtain had been drawn from before my eyes,â€? hinting at an epiphany-changed Werther, expecting to feel attachment and oneness with Nature, but “instead of prospects of eternal life, the abyss of an ever-open grave yawned before me.â€? The image of a curtain being drawn aside to reveal a Truth which concerns “the prospects of eternal lifeâ€? has strongly religious connotations; despite its lack of precision, this phrase conveys a wealth of images associated with ineffable experiences as in Biblical stories of religious epiphanies; curtains are prominent in Old Testament descriptions of the ark and the Holy of Holies — where a curtain encloses the heavenly presence. Such a religious tone indicates that Werther views this revelation with the fervency of a prophet, willing to allow it to determine his fate.Inflated imagery dominates the rest of the paragraph: Werther finds himself overshadowed by storms, torrents, the ocean, time, and Nature, the “all-comsuming monster.â€? These parallel his fear of his own destructive power: that at some scale he, too, is all-consuming, and could destroy a world in the same way an earthquake swallows a village.Werther finds himself before “the abyss of an ever-open grave,â€? which symbolises to Werther the tenuousness of his life: that he might plunge into the abyss as easily as falling into a hole in the ground. While a grave is a clear connection between this world and the next, an abyss is of a completely different category.\footnote{Abyss, in its original sense, means “an other-worldly pit,â€? in contrast to the weaker modern connotation.} That Werther can magnify one into the other gives this paragraph a fantastic flavour: in Werther’s dreams and visions an earthly grave becomes otherworldly and grows in magnititude when he interprets it.Werther continues with this image of life’s tenuousness: “Can we say of anything that it is when all passes away?â€? Werther’s question is more clearly emphatic in the German: “Kannst du sagen: Das ist! da alles vor ubergeht?â€? One can picture Werther standing at the edge of his abyss shouting these words at the turbulent grey sky, in the sort of stereotypical angst-ridden soliloquy he would, no doubt, enjoy giving.Imagery of blindly consuming forces bolsters this image, as Werther expounds upon existence’s ephemerality: “Can we say of anything than it is when all passses away — when time, with the speed of a storm, carries all things onward — and our transitory existence, hurried along by the torrent, is swallowed up by the waves or dashed against the rocks?â€? Although Werther changes metaphors for this fateful natural power three times in the course of the sentence, the image of coursing water, relentless in its flow, is explicit in each: time is compared with storms, torrents, and ocean waves — a human may be carried away by time, like a sapling may be uprooted and carried away by coursing water. The imagery of rushing water parallels that of the sentence itself: although the sentence is long, its flowing nature — especially its many dependent clauses — and common imagery carry the reader to finish the sentence before realising that the metaphor for time changed several times midcourse. The image of being swallowed by such forces is also introduced in this sentence — the waves are of such enormousness (and enormity!) that they could simply engulf one’s existence and extinguish it. In some sense, one could see a beginning of the swallowing motif in the vision of the abyss, which is sometimes described as engulfing humans in older poetry and literature.In accord with this swallowing motif, Werther concludes, “There is not a moment that doesn’t consume you and yours — not a moment in which you don’t yourself destroy something.â€? The first part of this sentence continues the theme of time as an active force; that time could consume a person inverts the usual image of humans as consumers of time; one is literally eaten by each moment which elapses. Thus, Werther’s imagery evolves: instead of merely being caught in the flow of time, one is consumed by each sucessive moment in what might be seen as a perverse game of Pacman.The second half of the phrase reveals an interesting leap of logic; Werther concludes that because each person is consumed/destroyed, each must also consume and destroy. While it’s possible that Werther has simply jumped to conclusions, brooding about the destructive power of Nature, and concluding that he, as part of Nature, must also be inherently destructive, a more plausible conclusion is that Werther has imagined a world on a smaller scale, for which he is a large force. This alternate interpretation evokes the initial scene when he observes “the little world among the stalksâ€? (6), and finds himself so entranced with the insects and plants on such a small scale.In fact, Werther shows his concern for such small worlds: “The most innocent walk costs thousands of poor insects their lives; one step destroys the delicate structures of the ant and turns a little world into chaos.â€?

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Nature in The Sorrows of Young Werther

March 14, 2019 by Essay Writer

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther is the embodiment of the Sturm und Drang literary movement that swept through Europe. Werther reached the height of popularity and inspired many young people, even leading them to dress like him. Werther, with the temperament of a romantic, always chooses his heart over his head. It is this heart over that head mentality that leads him to his own self-destruction. By reading the letters Werther writes, we are taken into his thoughts and feelings. Werther feels a deep connection to nature and his surroundings. Through Werther’s connection to nature, we see how the natural world influences him. Through Werther’s letters, we see how the outside world mirrors the inside world of himself. Through the genre of Sturm und Drang, we see how Werther is the perfect example of stormy weather. As exhibited in The Sorrows of Young Werther, for Goethe, nature has a power over humans and their well being.

The role of nature in the novel is exhibited in positive and in negative ways. The first part being, the external beauty of nature and its affects and passions in Werther’s writings. This use of nature is explored in the beginning of the novel where Werther is filled with joy and enjoys seeing nature as art. He writes, “today I witnessed a scene which, if written down plainly and exactly, would be the loveliest idyll the world has ever seen…must we tinker about with Nature before we can enjoy it” (Goethe 35). This is seen when he actively paints and writes poetry. Werther writes, “I had produced a harmoniously correct and arresting drawing without putting into it anything whatsoever of my own…only Nature has inexhaustible riches, and only Nature creates a great artist” (32). Werther attributes his talent to nature. He says that he did not change nature in his art, he only put down exactly what he saw. When he writes to Wilhelm, he shares in the joy of nature when he is happy. In the beginning, Werther tends to focus on the beauty of nature, but others do not. They focus on the physiology and technical features of nature and ignore the beauty and purity, which Werther associates nature with. Werther doesn’t like how men take nature for their own civilizations, he writes:

patriarchal ways come vividly to life about me, and I see them all, the ancestral fathers, making friends and courting by the spring, and I sense the benevolent spirits that watch over springs and wells. Oh, anyone who cannot share this feeling must never have refreshed himself at a cool spring after a hard day’s summer walking. (27)

Werther does not understand those who do not receive joy from nature. When nature is beautiful, Werther feels good. When Werther feels good, he sees the beauty in nature. Werther’s mood and how nature is perceived by Werther go hand in hand. When Werther is feeling good, he sees nature as good. Werther has an intense connection to nature. It lifts his spirits. But it can also bring him down.

Often the weather outside affects how one feels on the inside. This is true for Werther. In his letters, it is seen how the outside nature changes his emotions and feelings inside. The second use of nature in the novel is to depict the condition of Werther and his journey to his ultimate destruction. Werther writes that he has a special connection to nature and that he knows when his mood is going down based on the natural world. He describes this to Wilhelm, “the sun was still a quarter hour from touching the mountains…it was very sultry, and the ladies voiced fears of the thunderstorm…I set their minds at rest by affecting expertise in matters of the weather, though all the time I was myself beginning to suspect that our pleasures would be dealt a blow” (37). It is this connection to nature that leads Werther to feel the way he does. If the weather is sunny, he prepares for good things, but if not then he knows things are about to become dreary. Nature serves as a backdrop to Werther’s despair. Goethe goes even further as to show that nature mirrors the feelings of humans and vice versa. Goethe’s use of nature as the setting for Werther’s heartbreak creates the foundation for his unrequited love. Goethe uses nature to correspond to the feelings within Werther, as seen in the dance scene with Lotte. Lotte tells Werther of Albert and non-coincidentally, lightning strikes, “everything was in disarray and Lotte’s entire presence of mind and tugging and pulling were needed to restore a hasty order… lightning, began to flash more violently, and the thunder to drown out the music” (41). The lightning strike mirrors the way Werther feels stricken by Lotte’s announcement. Werther spends so much time in nature and thinking about nature that it becomes a part of him. Werther sees his sorrow displayed in the world around him.

Sturm und Drang, or Storm and Stress, is something very familiar to Werther. Werther and the weather have similar dispositions, they are both unpredictable and always in flux. Werther becomes the nature that he experiences. Werther writes on October 20th, “…we are so constituted as to be forever comparing ourselves with others and our surroundings with ourselves, our happiness or misery depends on the things in our environment…” (73). Moreover, nature not only affects his emotions, but he depends on nature. They are one. This is again seen when autumn arrives and Werther feels himself “yellowing” (90) along with the leaves on the trees. Werther is in complete harmony even with nature’s cycles. Werther says that he becomes autumn, “as Nature’s year declines into autumn, it is becoming autumn within me, and all about me” (90). Goethe is using nature to explain how Werther is feeling. Nature takes over Werther’s life, whether he knows it or not.

For von Goethe, nature is an expression of human feelings in the same way that human expression depends on nature. In The Sorrows of Young Werther, Werther’s emotions depend on his surrounding environment. Goethe’s novel acts as an argument for the power of nature. Through Goethe’s writing it is seen that through nature, Werther receives his sorrow and his joy. Whether it is a positive influence, a negative influence, or a complete immersion, it is shown that nature has a power over humans. Throughout the novel, it is seen that nature can change a person. A man can be moved to create art and experience joy, he can be sorrowful and experience ill thoughts, and the complete nature of a man can be altered, all due to nature.

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