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The Sufferings Of Young Werther By Goethe

1462 words - 6 pages

Discuss the relationship between individual and society in Goethe’s The Sufferings of Young Werther. What features of Werther’s individuality make him incapable of taking up a “normal” position within society?

It is accurate to suggest that an interdependent relationship exists between the individual and society. It is also accurate to state that in order for both the individual and society to flourish, the two entities must complement one another in values, beliefs and needs. It may be perceived that through carefully constructed characterisation throughout his eighteenth century novel ‘The Sufferings of Young Werther’, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe holistically depicts the way in which the ...view middle of the document...

Werther is a depicted as a man of the ‘Storm and Stress’ era, contrasting greatly with Lotte in that, he holds greater importance on individuality than social conformity. Werther declares that he is, “...so preoccupied with [himself and his heart]... [that he would] gladly let the others go their way, if only they would let,” him go his. (pg 48) The ‘others’ being referred to may be members of society who oppose his world perspectives, those who, in the eyes of Werther, live “rigid” lives reliant on “ceremony.” The continuation of symbolism of the heart suggests that like Lotte, Werther is aware of his passionate values and desires, while the ultimatum he presents suggests an awareness of the interdependent relationship of the individual and society. Harry Steinhauer believes that a modern reading of the novel depict Werther as a man who cannot, “...find a place for himself in society.” However, if we are to believe that Werther is aware of the difference in values between society and the individual, we too can extrapolate that he consciously elects to alienate himself from society by following his own desires as opposed to those structured to complement society. It can be said that while Lotte accepts the values of society and Werther opposes them, both of these actions come as a direct result of the interdependent relationship between the individual and society.
An individual’s inability to comply with the expectations of and values held by society can bare a negative effect on their social interactions. Goethe explores this notion primarily through the relationships between Werther and Albert and Werther and Lotte. SEE THIS MORE FROM WERTHER’S PERSPECTIVE
While the relationship between Werther and Albert moves the narrative of the novel, it can be said that it is also representative of concerns present in the novel’s original context. While discussing moral views regarding suicide, Werther depicts this aspect of his character, attempting to prove to Albert that when, “Nature finds no way,” to cure people of heartache or sickness, “the man or woman must die.” (37) Albert bares a rationalistic, Enlightenment view on life and opposes Werther’s view, arguing that, “an intelligent man... [could not] be excused,” for an act of suicide like, “an ignorant [uneducated] girl.” (38) If one is to accept Harry Steinhaur’s view that, “Werther is a man of nature... [whom opposes] artificial conventions of society,” it can be established that Albert is polar in character, supporting society’s values and structure. Thus, it can be determined that the relationship of Werther and Albert is structured by the physical, German society in which the novel was composed.
INCORPORATE THIS! If one is to believe that Werther acts as an image of the eighteenth century modern man who values individuality, authenticity and expressiveness, it may also be seen that Albert is reflective of the rational, logical man of the Enlightenment period. It can be said that these...

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