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The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann…

The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774)

by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
awesome and then some. ( )
  aegossman | Feb 25, 2015 |
Werther's unrequited love, teenage angst, and unbridled Romanticism are by turns seductive and repugnant. To my eternal benefit I was unable to take my own angsty feelings so seriously after reading a series of e-mails from poor self-obsessed Werther. I strongly recommend reading the story by periodic e-mail for anyone who reads it at all. The letters themselves can be tedious, but their effect on me at least was worth the effort.

Notably, Frankenstein's monster reads the book and uses it (along with a few other books) as his basis for understanding the human condition. In my opinion the monster's angst and Romanticism are generally more readable than Werther's, and Shelley offers a more mature perspective on the Romantic philosophy to boot. ( )
  wishanem | Jan 27, 2015 |
The Sorrows of Young Werther is an epistolary novel that has influenced the Romantic Movement. Often known as the original ‘emo’, a term that I hate, this novel is a semi-autobiographical novel that brought huge success to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The novel is a collection of letters written by Werther to his friend Wilhelm. These letters are an intimate account of his attraction towards the beautiful Lotte; a young woman he meets in the village of Wahlheim. Despite knowing that she is already engaged to a man 11 years her senior, Werther falls for her and attempts to develop a friendship between the two in an effort to get closer to Lotte.

You can probably guess how this story goes; Werther, an artist of highly sensitive and passionate nature heading down a road that can only lead to heartbreak. I’m not one to enjoy a novel that revolves around a love triangle but when it is done properly it can be an effective plot device; I’m thinking of books like those mentioned in this post. There is no denying the cultural impact The Sorrows of Young Werther has had on the world; unfortunately the ‘Werther effect’ is the most common reference to the novel nowadays.

I’ll be honest, I wanted to read this novel because Frankenstein’s monster finds this book in a leather portmanteau along with Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, and John Milton’s Paradise Lost which gives you an interesting insight into Frankenstein. Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans is a series of biographies of famous men to illustrate their common moral virtues or failings, while Paradise Lost is an epic poem on creationism and the fall of man. The Sorrows of Young Werther embodies the Romantic ideals; Werther being a sensitive intellect with an obsession of nature and values emotion over reasoning. All three novels represent different themes that Shelley wants the reader to explore when reading Frankenstein.

While this may sound like a morbid and depressing novel, Goethe shows the beauty behind the tragedy. One thing I loved about this book is the wording, and permit me to post a few quotes from the book to just show you the beauty in the novel.

“Sometimes I don’t understand how another can love her, is allowed to love her, since I love her so completely myself, so intensely, so fully, grasp nothing, know nothing, have nothing but her!”

The major theme obviously is love; a look in how it can defy all logic. Werther can’t stop his heart from falling for Lotte, even if he knew it would lead to pain. The idea that the heart has more control over someone’s actions than their head is often evident in life and The Sorrows of Young Werther captures it perfectly. For me, that is what makes this novel spectacular and significant.

“I am proud of my heart alone, it is the sole source of everything, all our strength, happiness & misery. All the knowledge I possess everyone else can acquire, but my heart is all my own”

However, you can look at this novel as something other than love; the idea that Goethe is portraying the decline in Werther’s mental health is also a vital angle that needs to be considered. The reason I hate the term ‘emo’ I won’t go into at this time but Werther’s overly emotional journey could also be symptoms of a bi-polar depression, though not a known diagnosis of the time. We have to consider the idea that his joy and sorrow is not just unrequited love but a deeper issue. The love triangle would have added fuel to his depression and we cannot ignore that this could be the root cause of Werther’s sorrow.

For such a small novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther packs a huge punch. This is the type of book I can see myself reading again and again, not just because of the Romantic ideas but what it has to say about love and mental illness. I can’t help but think that The Sorrows of Young Werther is just a better version of The Catcher in the Rye, in the sense that is a journey of a self-absorbed protagonist, but maybe too difficult for high-school student. The Sorrows of Young Werther is an important book, not only did it influence the greatest literary movement we’ve seen but it still relevant today, almost 250 years later.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2014/04/24/the-sorrows-of-young-werther-by-johan... ( )
  knowledge_lost | Dec 4, 2014 |
Werther's letter of August 18:
"Must it be that whatever makes man happy must later become the source of his misery?
"That generous and warm feeling for living Nature which flooded my heart with such bliss, so that I saw the world around me as a Paradise, has now become an unbearable torment, a sort of demon that persecutes me wherever I go. When I formerly looked from the rock far across the river and the fertile valleys to the distant hills, and saw everything on all sides sprout and spring forth - the mountains covered with tall, thick trees from base to summit, the valleys winding between pleasant shading woods, the gently flowing river gliding among the whispering reeds and reflecting light clouds which sailed across the sky under the mild evening breeze; when I listened to the birds that bring the forest to life, while millions of midges danced in the red rays of a setting sun whose last flare roused the buzzing beetle from the grass; and all the whirring and weaving around me drew my attention to the ground underfoot where the moss, which wrests it nourishment from my hard rock, and the broom plant, which grows on the slope of the arid sand hill, revealed to me the inner, glowing, sacred life of Nature - how fervently did I take all this into my warm heart, feeling like a god in the overflowing abundance, while the beautiful forms of the infinite universe stirred and inspired my soul....
"It is as if a curtain has been drawn away from my soul, and the scene of unending life is transformed before my eyes into the pit of the forever-open grave. Can you say: 'This is!' when everything passes, everything rolls past with the speed of lightning and so rarely exhausts the whole power of it existence, alas, before it is swept away by the current, drowned and smashed on the rocks? There is not one moment which does not consume you and yours, and not one moment when you yourself are not inevitably destructive; the most harmless walk costs the lives of thousands of poor, minute worms; one step of your foot annihilates the painstaking constructions of ants, and stamps a small world into its ignominious grave. Ha! It is not the notable catastrophes of the world, the floods that wash away our villages, the earthquakes that swallow up our town which move me; my heart is instead worn out by the consuming power latent in the whole of Nature which has formed nothing that will not destroy its neighbour and itself. So I stagger with anxiety, Heaven and Earth and their weaving powers around me! I see nothing but an eternally devouring and ruminating monster."
1 vote | maryoverton | Apr 15, 2014 |
I expected to dismiss this book, having read others' reviews in advance. Goethe himself often wished it forgotten after he wrote it, when it still haunted his legacy. Maybe he felt embarrassed by the biographical aspect and his own youthful foolishness. He was too hard on himself. It may be easy to deride Werther's sorrows and weakness, but Goethe did a fine job of capturing youth's irrational passions. There's a reason why it's so hard for adults to relate to teenagers, and I think this classic sums it up perfectly.

Werther has to start high before he can fall, and he begins very high. His adoration of a pastoral scene is enough to trigger tears of happiness in him, demonstrating how commanded he is by emotional highs and lows. A storm is brewing - literally, as he is about to meet Charlotte for the first time. At first he is merely an admirer, desirous of her company but not overly wounded that she is engaged to Albert. He is still full enough of life that he can argue with Albert that moroseness is a sin: extreme dramatic irony on a re-read. But gradually admiration turns to obsession, as he begins to idealize his love and then encounters hardships with his attempt at a career, doubled by the impending marriage of Charlotte and Albert becoming fact. After that it's a swift slide to the bottom.

Interesting arguments surface. Werther compares a wounded heart to dying of a disease; that there can only be so much pain before one's endurance is overcome, no matter how determined the mindset. Here he clearly ranks emotion above reason as the force which commands him. With this imbalance locked in, no appeal can save him. At this point the reader's loathing is liable to be set in as well. Just snap out of it! Accept what is, and move on! It's compounded by Werther being directionless and possibly too proud and lazy for his own good. He lives off his mother's allowance, and how old is he? Clearly I'm thinking like a parent, or at least a mature adult. To understand this character, I need to cast my mind further back.

Can I never recall admiration for an unobtainable girl that led beyond reason? It would be a cold, hard life I've led if I could not. In youth our passions command us. We can hear and speak reason, but only within the context of values largely determined by our feelings. Urgency comes from desiring the company of an ideal vision of the opposite sex, unaware how much we are projecting onto the nearest target and value accordingly beyond what reason dictates. Puppy love transgresses into puppy idolization, to the detriment of the worshiper and the worshiped. I choose to pity Werther out of sympathy, but only up to the point where he contemplates suicide. That state is only obtainable by the sustaining of blind romantic notion far beyond anything I achieved. It is a reality that some are not so lucky. To deride Werther is to deride all youth who give way to irrational despair. Understand him, and you may perceive a life to be saved. ( )
2 vote Cecrow | Mar 17, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
The legend that it generated a teenage-suicide epidemic across Europe is dubious, but the novel’s international popularity two hundred years ago can’t be overstated. ... Werther’s sorrows didn’t look petty to Goethe or to his original audience, and they ought to feel even more familiar to us.

» Add other authors (466 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang vonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alavedra, JoanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baioni, GiulianoEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beutler, ErnstAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chodowiecki, Daniel NikolausIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Corngold, StanleyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garagorri, PaulinoPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hutter, CatherineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kilpi, VolterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Steinhauer, HarryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weigand, Hermann J.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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I have diligently collected everything I have been able to discover concerning the story of poor Werther, and here present it to you in the knowledge that you will be grateful for it.
On 30th October 1772, Legation Secretary Karl Wilhelm Jerusalem in Wetzlar hot and killed himself with a pistol borrowed from J. C. Kestner, a friend of Goethe. (Introduction)
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You only find true love once. When Werther dances with the beautiful Lotte, it seems as though he is in paradise. It is a joy, however, that can only ever be short-lived. Engaged to another man, she tolerates Werther's adoration and encourages his friendship. She can never return his love. Broken-hearted, he leaves her home in the country, trying to escape his own desire. But when he receives a letter telling him that she is finally married, his passion soon turns to destructive obsession. And as his life falls apart, Werther is haunted by one certainty: He has lost his reason for living.… (more)

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