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The Role Of Gretchen In Goethe´S Faust

934 words - 4 pages

In Goethe's Faust the two main characters are seen as male figures, one being indeterminable. Despite this books blatant masculine centric view the book could easily be used by modern Feminist as a feminist view of Goethe's society. As for the novel being used by the feminist movement, their purpose would be to show how women were/ are seen versus how they truly are.
Generations of readers and critics of Faust I have seen Gretchen as a sign of selfless, idealized femininity, who will ultimately lead to the redemption of Faust. Even as will look through the commonly seen roles that Margaret inhabits, it only shows the use of the novel to bring awareness to the plight of the female character. When we look at the gender system, Gretchen’s story appears to be cast as one of seductive and self destructive female sexuality, anchored in the symbolic witch-scenes and the sexual revelry of the Walpurgis Night. It is also a story of infanticide and of confinement in the patriarchal Faustian world. Gretchen’s supposedly female voice is, indeed, quite different form Faust’s eloquent self-presentation in soliloquies and dialogue; but it is a voice shaped and controlled by Goethe according to late eighteenth-century notions of gender.We can begin to see how her character was written to form the ideal female or the "Angel in the House".
In Faust, Margaret was the most pious, virtuous woman in the beginning. She attended church devoutly, worked for the betterment and care of her family, and kept herself pure in public eyes. Margaret's brother took pride in his sister's resistance to her nature. His family was seen as good because of the female members, but as soon as a woman succumbs to her nature, her family is shamed. As the seduced innocent, Gretchen serves as a representation of male power and prerogatives over the female body, as a sign of his redemption. As a child-murderess she becomes a prisoner of her procreative role. Thus she is doomed in every aspect of her own possible being: as a woman, lover and mother. Her infanticide surfaces only covertly in two symbolic visions in the ‘Dungeon’ scene, when she is imprisoned awaiting public execution. Gretchen is no longer able to distinguish between her fantasies and reality, between past, present and future; she appears helpless and insane in terms of the realistic world, yet for Faust, Gretchen now represents a possible lethal threat, a past he desires to forget in order to proceed with his exploration of life and self. In killing her own child, she has forfeited her right to live in this world; as infanticide she is punished by society in kind for her crime. Her death, demanded within Faust’s patriarchal world, is an act of ultimate self- destruction, of...

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