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Thought's On Goethe's Faust Essay

1292 words - 5 pages

"God affirms and creates, the devil denies and destroys" (Thomas 1xxvi). The concept of good and evil has been around since essentially the Beginning, the dawn of life, with Adam and Eve determining the course of humanity for all to come under the persuasion of evil. Always associated with the concepts of "good" and "evil" then, are the two most powerful spiritual forces recognized by mankind; God and Satan. The latter of the two has always existed to sway mankind, to deceive them in the hopes of luring them away from the promise of eternal life in Heaven, and to have them spend eternity as a tormented soul in Hell. This idea, once again rings true in Goethe's "Faust". Goethe presents us with a philosopher, one who is fed up with the asinine task of living his life day in and day out, when he knows that true knowledge will always evade him. This gives pretense for the Devil himself to offer "aid" to the man, Faust, in exchange for his soul once he believes he has attained true and utter enlightenment. The Devil, in this case takes on a physical form, and is presented in the shape of Mephistopheles. The concept of the Devil as being evil is played out fully in this poem, but not entirely in the way one might think. Surprisingly, some good comes from the use of Mephistopheles as I will explain shortly. The story evolves into Faust obtaining the knowledge he seeks, as well as becoming acquainted with a young maid named Margaret, and eventually being overcome by the power of the Devil when he meets his demise. Mephistopheles is used very efficiently in this poem in many ways. Principally, the character of Mephistopheles is used to test the limits of the human intelligence and spirit, as well as being used to display one of the most important and "human" aspects of man, which is the ability to love, and lastly as a means of presenting an opportunity for Faust to improve who he is as a human being.One of the human conditions, the ability to cope with adversity, is easily exploited by the character of Mephistopheles in "Faust". He is used as a means of testing Faust's intelligence, as well as his morality and spirit through his superior knowledge and intelligence. Never in the story does Mephistopheles commit any crimes. It is not he that murders Margaret's mother, nor he that kills her brother. Never does Mephistopheles exploit Margaret's personality. In fact he is quite gentlemanlike in his demeanor upon meeting Margaret for the first time. As stated by Calvin Thomas, author of "Goethe Faust; Part One" "We must not think of Goethe's Mephistopheles as a malignant fiend, artfully and hatefully leading his victim in the way of pleasure...He is rather a gentleman of culture" (Thomas 1xxii). Absolute and total evil is the general image one conceives when considering Satan, and is true in most cases, but differs in this one however, and in a most important way. Mephistopheles merely aids in the destruction and downfall of Faust's being, acting as a catalyst...

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