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This Book has many shady characters, only Gretchen is the one character you can feel sorry for, that is what makes this tragedy so horrifying yet gratifying .Her and Faust running around makes you happy, but you anticipate them to fall desperately into love with one another and finish their lives indulging with Mephisto. But this pure untainted soul is tricked into leaving behind the innocence of her youth and subsiding to the evil one for the promise of riches and a better life. So once again you have no one to root for, because although you understand Faust’s predicament he’s getting what he wanted. Next you really begin to hate Faust because once he has seen and had all that Gretchen has to offer his love becomes an infatuation spurred by his newly found youth. Then who are you left with; Gretchen a now pregnant charlatan desperately hoping her “lover” who has poisoned her mother and slain her brother will come save her from prison, and Mephisto the Devil himself.

The entire Gretchen Tragedy is there to invoke a feeling of temptation. A sort of “What if”, really what would you do if a good looking member of the opposite sex who has more money than anyone you have ever heard of approached you describing their love to you like a cheesy Julia Roberts movie. This proves the point that Mephisto made to God in Prologue in Heaven “If only it were grass he could repose in! There is no trash he will not poke his nose in.”(Prologue In Heaven p. 85). We must keep looking for better things, if Gretchen were to realize what a small price she was paying to sacrifice life on earth for life eternal in heaven. She was without sin until she allowed human nature to take over.

Gretchen upon her entrance into the play is stereotypical of a peasant woman of that time; she works all day, lives with her parents, and hopes to one day marry above her class so her daughter will not have to endure as she has throughout her life. But, she begins a metamorphosis when she meets Faust. First, she finds jewels that she can’t begin to describe, so she gives them to her mother typical of the times.

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In an ironic gesture Goethe has her mother give them to the Church, which couldn’t be better for Mephisto because she begins to frown upon the Church and upon her mother. He’s got a single and looking to have a stand up double at this point. Soon she begins to think for herself instead of letting society think for her. This seems to be frowned upon by Goethe because it inevitably leads to her ruin; first she poison’s her mother in order to commit the ultimate sin for a woman of her evocation SEX while unmarried, she then becomes pregnant which is also shunned upon “ That girl has at last been made a fool. That comes from having airs.

It stinks! She is feeding two when she eats and drinks.” (At The Well p. 335)
Next, her “lover” causes her brothers death when he comes looking for the man who ruined his sister’s reputation. So this wonderful thing called love has done a lot for Gretchen so far. But, this does lead her to be a modern woman; she’s stubborn and doesn’t listen to anyone but herself (and Faust). Gretchen’s stubbornness is inevitably what saves her. Because she so disliked Mephisto she refused to go with her love to whom she expressed it until the very end. She was crazy but she knew, her sovereignty of herself is what cost her everything, but in the end it also gave her the grace of God. It’s almost as if Goethe’s telling us that nothing is as good as it could have been if you had worked for it.

Nothing sticks in someone’s head like a sad story; it gets its point across more bluntly and concretely than any other way. But that is not the only reason such a story would be so tragic, without pain and discomfort of an encounter with the devil, in which you receive everything that you have ever wanted, who wouldn’t make that deal. I have to believe that because Mephisto is triumphed over in the end (by Faust and Gretchen) that Goethe wishes to show that God is the lesser of two evils. I say two evils because who would believe that God would have the audacity to contrive a bet with his enemy. Also in the way he just stole Faust back from the devil.

In the end Gretchen and God are the only heroes. It is God who saves Faust in the end; it is he that lets everyone make their own decisions and is there for them in the end. It is Gretchen who turns herself to God after her stray off the path. She also accepts her lover after she knows his deceits and all the heartbreak he caused her. She waits for him in heaven and that is a huge testament to how strong her love is; yet we are left to wonder if Faust still agrees. The Gretchen Tragedy is the quintessential element of this play it shows every side of the devil and the true side of God all through Goethe’s eyes. Without this aspect all you have is a lot of conjuring and no real plot to the story. It doesn’t have a moral or even an interesting plot, it’s just a story about this guy who makes a deal with the devil and gets out of it. Gretchen is the best and most important person in the plot that says it all.
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