In Goethe’s work, Werther sees innocence all around him, and uses it to justify his worldview that he, above all, has seen the most suffering. In his interactions with the poor village family, he sees only their joys and simple life, rather than their despair. The mother, who is conversing with him, is seen as “a creature who, going her ways within the narrow circle of her existence, gets by from one day to the next and, seeing the leaves fall, thinks nothing other than that winter is coming,” (Goethe, 14). Werther has witnessed the hard life she and her children have experienced, yet chooses to acknowledge only the simplicity of it rather than the obvious hardships she experiences daily. The pleasure he gains from observing their supposed innocence greatly contrasts the hardships he sees in his own life, where he often feels “near to breaking,” (Goethe, 14). In making Werther purposefully ignorant of the hardships these peasants face, Goethe emphasizes his illogical and selfish ways. These children in particular are revealed to have ...
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... how he is perceived by Victor and anyone who hears of what he does.
Whether used intrinsically or extrinsically, innocence can be applied in a variety of ways to excuse almost anything, from the pettiest actions to the most horrific of deeds. Whether it is Werther, claiming that his life is the absolute most difficult because innocent people around him do not know suffering, Victor, claiming that he is innocent and should not be held accountable for the Creature because of the thrill of science, or the Creature claiming he is innocent in his creation, this principle can easily spiral into a mess of labels that consume all other aspects of a person. It is easy to do normally insane things when you truly believe that you are not at all in the wrong, and in both Goethe and Shelley’s works, innocence serves as the primary justifying factor for many horrid situations.
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