Book Club

The pains of the young Werther – Johann Wolfgang Goethe

Author: Johann Wolfgang Goethe
Year of publication: 1774

It tells of a young man named Werther who had just moved from an important German city to a small country village. Werther writes letters to his friend Wilhelm to tell him about the various characters he meets during his stay.
Werther is a cultured young man who reads the classics of Homer and Shakespeare. The young man, due to his culture, his affability and his good taste, is accepted by everyone, without however being able to establish a real “company”.
One night he goes to a ball with a local noble family and meets a beautiful girl named Lotte.
Werther is fascinated by the sweetness and vivacity of the girl who, however, is already promised to a boy named Albert. At the dance a real feeling arises between the two and the girl seems to really enjoy the pleasant company of the young man.
Tormented by a feeling that cannot be reciprocated, Werther decides to leave the country and never see Lotte again. Werther then pleases his mother who wants him a brilliant career as a court official and agrees to work for an ambassador. But the dissatisfaction with a boring job and the misunderstandings with his superior lead him to abandon his job and move into the house of a noble. Even this company turns out to be unbearable: the young man has incompatibility of ideals and feelings with the noble and with an excuse goes away. Without a job he returns to live near Lotte, spending his days wandering around the countryside. After seeing Lotte, the love for the girl grows within him and at the same time also the desperation to see her loved one in the meantime married to Albert. Werther initially frequents the girl’s house and receives friendship from both of them, but slowly his feelings for Lotte become evident.
Werther’s return can only disrupt Lotte and Albert’s marriage.
While Werther sees Lotte as his ideal woman, Lotte sees nothing but a very good friend in him.
Lotte still likes him, and a lot, but only as a friend of hers; Alberto too would tolerate it very willingly, but his constant presence, his strange behavior, his hysterical scenes, the first signs of imbalance, disturb Lotte very much and end up threatening the marriage.
People notice it and Alberto then, knowing that this will not be easy for Lotte, invites her to tell Werther to visit her less often, to leave her alone for a while.
Werther’s rebellious mentality can only oppose this order: he visits her anyway, when she likes him: and even one evening Werther doesn’t resist and kisses her. The girl runs away to another room, terrified and she no longer wants to see him; the young man understands that there is now nothing more to be done and that his love is destined for the end.
From this moment Werther begins to mature the desire to die and this becomes his only thought until one day after his last visit to Lotte he returns to her room and prepares everything for suicide. He sends a servant to Albert and borrows his guns, writes a letter to his beloved and one to Wilhelm and at the stroke of midnight he shoots himself in the head. His agony lasts a few hours and after his death he is buried in a corner of the cemetery, where he wished to rest.

THE MAIN CHARACTERS

Werther: he is the main character of the novel he is affable, cultured in fact he loves to express himself in various fields: in addition to writing, he translates, paints and draws, and reads ancient and contemporary texts. He does not have a fixed occupation.
Lotte: she is the eldest of brothers and sisters, whom she takes care of personally given the recent loss of her mother. She is betrothed to Alberto.
Alberto: he is Carlotta’s betrothed, has a fixed occupation (having to get married) and works as a diplomat. His relationship with Werther, at first, is very calm and serene, like true friends; however, when Werther begins to show the first signs of a crisis of love, Alberto decides to remove him, as his presence only risks destabilizing Carlotta’s fragile soul.

SPACE AND TIME

The space in which the novel is set is Waldheim in Germany at the end of the 18th century.

FINAL COMMENT

The dominant motif is love in its various forms: for nature and for the young Lotte.
But the rejection of this love and tortured by unhappiness Werther considers death as the only alternative to his pain.

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