The concept that man is essentially good is the central theme in “Faust”. Opening the story is a scene in Heaven with a gathering of the archangels before The Lord and joining them is Mephistopheles. This scene is reminiscent of the Book of Job from the Bible. A conversation ensues between God and Mephisto over the nature of Faust and whether he is a “good servant”, (Goethe 632), or can be turned by Mephisto. Agreeing upon a bet between them, God swears to not interfere and gives Mephisto unmitigated authority to pursue Faust however he wishes, telling him that a “good man still knows which way is the right one” (Goethe 632). Thus starts the great game for Faust’s soul. Mephisto entreats Faust to make a wager with him as well; that he will serve Faust on earth and Faust will serve him in hell. Faust adds a caveat that if Mephisto can make him feel “satisfied with myself” (Goethe 663), then Mephisto wins. Mephisto employs his powers and turns Faust from a self-doubting miserable scholar to a “callous seducer and abandoner of an innocent woman” (Brand 4)....
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... again. Further on, Mephisto uses a spell on Gretchen’s brother to render him helpless as Faust delivers the fatal blow. Climbing a mountain on Walpurgis Night finds Faust and Mephisto at a witch’s gathering where they see not only the fabled Lilith but a proctophantasmist as well. The latter is especially notable as it is not a common profession even in the supernatural world.
Widely regarded as one of the finest examples of literature in Romanticism, “Faust” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, includes multiple concepts of the period. Exploring the inherent goodness of man, the pride that can snare them, and dealing with the supernatural are all covered in his work. It has served as an inspiration for writers and playwrights since it publication. The ideas of inherent goodness and avoiding pride shown in “Faust” are not antiquated, but still speak to us today.
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