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Characters in “Faust” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Essay

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Updated: Jan 28th, 2021

What do we know about the difference in social status between Faust and Gretchen? How does this play a role in her seduction and tragedy?

The European society of the time discussed in the novel is subjected to the Catholic Church as well as the government. God was the authority and all the types of punishment, either civil or criminal, were based on the authority of God. Faust also believed in God and he was subjected to God’s rules until the bargaining with Mephistopheles. It is even more correct to say that Faust rejected God’s supervision when he lost his faith which was before his bargaining sessions with Mephistopheles.

Gretchen is presented as a woman of faith and morality. She believes in God and it presupposes her social position. However, being attracted to Faust, she leaves her faith and this plays the central role in her tragedy. The very idea of her seduction is the tragedy as this is the line which she dared to cross and there was no way back. The difference between Faust and Gretchen is that Faust lost his faith to fulfill personal ambitions while Gretchen fell in love with the devotion to the loved person made her lose faith. In other words, even losing her faith she acts by God’s rules, she sacrifices herself to stay with the person she fell in love with.

Mephistopheles is there to play a certain kind of role in Faust’s life (i.e. to offer him certain kinds of experiences). Do Faust and Mephistopheles understand this role in the same way? Do they have the same view of ambition?

No, they don’t. The role of Mephistopheles in the life of Faust is understood by these people differently. Faust believes that having agreed with Mephistopheles he will be able to satisfy his ambitions, while Mephistopheles understands the real value of this desire. Faust is dreaming of freedom, he is sure that this contract will allow him to achieve his aim without being restricted to the social norms and responsibilities. Mephistopheles, in his turn, understands that the deal is the direct way to hell. It is even possible to notice that Mephistopheles tries to warn and make Faust refuse the deal as he is aware of the real situation and does not want him to make the same mistakes as Mephistopheles did in his time.

How does Faust’s love for Gretchen affect him differently than Mephistopheles had predicted? To what extent does that love go according to Mephistopheles’ plan?

Mephistopheles does not believe in love and true devotion, he just believes in short-term affection. Therefore, it should be stated that Mephistopheles is wrong and he is unable to understand the love and passion of two human beings who are in love. Mephistopheles cannot believe that Gretchen can sacrifice her life, to refuse everything to make sure that she is going to stay with the person she loves and to give her life for him.

Human feelings cannot be understood by the devil, real love is the feeling that cannot be got by those who have never experienced it. Mephistopheles has never planed that Gretchen will want to possess Faust, that her devotion to him is going to be that great. This is the moment where Mephistopheles’ plain is failed, he did not expect that there are feelings that may help a person to want to live.

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IvyPanda. "Characters in "Faust" by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe." January 28, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/characters-in-faust-by-johann-wolfgang-von-goethe/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Characters in "Faust" by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe." January 28, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/characters-in-faust-by-johann-wolfgang-von-goethe/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Characters in "Faust" by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe'. 28 January.

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