For the Love of Gretchen!
The experience of human love tends to be quite a complex endeavor. Leaving one puzzled, conflicted, in over one’s head. Perhaps unrequited or short of what could last, ending in nothing short of despair. In the tragedy Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe intimately brings to life the theme of love and all that it offers (or lack there of), in the life of a human being. With the character of Gretchen intertwined throughout the play, her beauty, naive spirit, and religious roots create an affair like no other. Goethe uses Gretchen in an effort to convey the meaning of the human love experience throughout Faust.
In order for one to understand Goethe’s perspective of portraying the human love experience using Gretchen, Gretchen’s infamous character must be revealed. Gretchen walks into the spotlight on a somber evening after an interaction between Faust and Mephistopheles in the Witch’s kitchen. Gretchen begins as a young, naive figure with impressive religious morals and background; a queen of innocence and near perfection. Goethe describes Gretchen by saying, “I’m not a lady, am not fair; I can go home without your care” (Goethe 92). With the first sentence the reader is exposed to Gretchen speaking, one see’s her confidence and responsibility as a woman of her God. She knows who she is and refuses to let anyone shake the godly foundation of her character. In a later scene, Gretchen’s character is further revealed when she says, “Oh, bend Thou, Mother of Sorrows; send Thou a look of pity on my pain” (Goethe). This reveals the strength of Gretchen as a saint and committed follower of Christ. She is very admirable in every aspect. A woman who deserves to be praised for who she is.
Gretchen though, fails to remain her true self as the tragedy progresses. In all her glory, Gretchen becomes the apple of Faust’s eye with one glance on the street that faithful night after Witch’s kitchen. Gretchen’s bedroom slipping into a shrine for Faust, he falls hard for the wholeness of her beauty. And as a faithful Christian, Gretchen must not fall back for Faust unless he aligns with her religious morals. Gretchen asks Faust, “About religion, what do you feel now, say? You are a good, warm hearted man, and yet I fear you are not inclined in that way” (Goethe 120). Gretchen can sense that not only is Faust not interested in her saintly morals, but his trusty sidekick, Mephistopheles is indeed the Devil himself. And so naturally, she questions the authenticity of their characters. Although Gretchen fails to abandon her religious beliefs completely, she runs towards her love for Faust, pushing some moral values aside (like not pursuing a man with the same ideals). She says to Faust, “Yet I confess I know not why my heart began at once to stir to take your part” (Goethe). Gretchen knows that she wants to be with Faust, yet knows that her decision to pursue those feelings was...