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Nature in Goethe's 'The Sorrows of Young Werther'

Discuss about the Text and Traditions for Melancholy and Self Destruction.

Goethe and Wordsworth have produced various instrumental documents of romanticism.  The Sorrows of Young Werther, by Goethe and The Prelude, by Wordsworth, are a great example. Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther sets a fresh standard and new sentiment of mood and portrays a fashionable shift of world-weariness, melancholy, and self-destruction. Wordsworth, on the other hand, used a style that was naturalistic, which is a feature of romanticism.

In both Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther and WordsWorth’s The Prelude, nature appears to be a key characteristic in the romantic self. To begin with The Sorrows of Young Werther, Goethe uses nature in two ways. First as an entryway of outside splendour and a tribute to excellence on the universe lying in each scenery and the plenty originality from the maker of all those exquisite images. This usage of nature is seen in the initial parts of the novel whereby Young Werther is jovial and trying to perceive nature as a fine art and he fiddles with painting and poetry. In fact, Werther comments at a point (Goethe, 2016) “Would we be able to never appreciate and enjoy nature without having choice to art” (p. 34)? Secondly, Goethe uses nature to depict the state and fitness of Werther as he descends the stairs of unhappiness. Even though nature is serving as a background to the anguish and misery of Werther, Goethe demonstrates further that we make an impression of nature, as well as the environment, to reflect our heart’s state. Werther says that (2016) “he has never understood nature better or has never felt happier even to the very smallest blade and tem of grass” (p. 52). Werther is melancholic in a similar scene where he showed utter delight when with Charlotte and exclaims the reason he was ecstatic back then, and now that euphoria appears to be miserably haunting as the wonderful face of beloved Charlotte. Nature is exemplarily used as a backdrop of the broken heart of Werther and creates an establishment for the unanswered love and yearning.

Looking at Wordsworth’s work, The Prelude, without mentioning nature none of his discussions would be complete. In Wordsworth’s poetry, nature and its association with mankind appear in vast, often being the focus of the poem and has turned out to be the foundation of romance primarily due to him. “To more than the softness of infants among fretful dwellings of human kind, nature breathes among the groves and hills bringing knowledge, calmness and a dim earnest” (278). He views nature as a sort of religion where he lays his ultimate faith. Nature fills two key roles in Wordsworth’s poetry. First, nature often makes him melancholic, despite the fact that it has an intense beauty and tranquillity. The reason is that, even though he relishes nature as much, he worries about others, especially those who live in cities totally separated from nature. How they can revive their spirits, it’s a wonder to Wordsworth.

Nature in Wordsworth's 'The Prelude'

Secondly, nature makes Wordsworth hopeful for the later future. He knows that from past experience, investing time and spending it on nature, it is a favoured gift to his future self, for later, when he’s all alone, exhausted and unfulfilled in the hectic, filthy city. He will manage to think back on the Daffodils field he once spent time in and be contented once more. Nature has the ultimate decent impact and influence on the mind of humans, all through Wordsworth’s work. All appearances of the common world that is from the least complex flower to the highest mountain evoke noble thoughts and passion from the people who watch these manifestations. “With life and nature purification occurs in the elements of feeling and thought and the sanctification by such discipline” (410). Wordsworth emphasizes on many accounts, how significant nature is to the development of a person both intellectually and spiritually. A sound relationship with nature, assists individuals interface with the social and spiritual world. Wordsworth clearly says in The Prelude, an affection for nature can lead to loving mankind (Wordsworth, 2016).

Freedom for Werther is presented as something beyond the romantic confrontation with death. That is suicide brings about freedom from suffering and misery. Goethe shows how Werther views suicide as a definitive form of liberty, denoting it as the topmost level of resistance, which ought not to be related to cowardice or weakness. Freedom and nature in The Prelude were inseparable, and so were freedom and revolution. Nature is presented as an elemental and untamed force, just like revolution is where Wordsworth and the rest turned their backs on politics. This makes the idea of nature a fitting excuse to abandon social life entirely. Going back to nature acts as a synonym to freedom or rather escapism. In Wordsworth and Coleridge’s early poetry, nature comes across as a revolutionary force recognized with the fight for freedom. However, later on, after their revolutionary passions subsidized, they fell back on nature as their escapism or safe haven.

Wordsworth also talks about the freedom to make a choice on what one wants to do, read and write about and further the solitude that accompanies that freedom. He states “It is enough that he is free for several months yet to come that he may pledge himself to selected tasks” (32-34). Additionally, he adds that “he was taught to feel, maybe much more, the self-satisfactory power that comes with solitude” (77-78). Later on, he questions if the quantity of freedom that he has employed in the selection of his interests was so much such that it resulted in the suffering of his effectiveness as a writer. He states that “even though the independent study appeared to be like a course involving hardy disobedience, unkindness and proud rebellion towards kindred and friends, the phony virtue or rather cowardice presented deceitful approval to that over love. Freedom encouraged him to turn from the regulations, even of his own. No one knows what was preserved or gained, not even himself” (27-41). Wordsworth also questions whether a life of freedom will lead to enduring progress. He asks “where is he who has had his whole life enlarged and preserved having this freedom or rather genuine liberty in himself? Is his progress bright and smooth” (130-135)?

Freedom and Escapism

Reason and emotion are also an important feature of the romantic self. The Sorrows of Young Werther covers on both emotion and reason and points out how when separate they can be an adversity. Werther realizes the character of a romantic who opts emotion to reason. He trusts that whatever happens in the heart outdoes whatever happens in the head. He relinquishes reason and surrenders emotion in the beginning. He is seen cheery and is adoring falling in love with Lotte, a married woman. He ought to have used reason but ignored it. Though he ignored reason, sooner or later it crept in, and Werther becomes depressed, a situation he never truly recuperates from. It is evident that his tremendous passions and insufferable emotions lead him to his self-destruction (Goethe, 2016). The letters that Werther writes to Wilhem his friend show the emotions that he had or felt. Various aspects of romanticism present themselves in Werther’s character, which outlines him as a hopeless who cast-off the voice of reason. He is that kind of romantic that writes meaningful poetic phrases in his love letters and lavish on individuals he feels genuine affection for. The most remarkable characteristic in Werther is his ability to infinitely and deeply love. He also enjoys the contexts of nature, feeling a deep connection with his environs believing it is the best type of emotions. He would rather have felt than thought and was more passionate than reasonable. He states “Dear God! Did you make it that men’s destiny be that they do not become happy without having to realize reason and afterward they lose it again” (387-395)? This clearly describes how Werther felt. He was happier when he did not reason. Here a point is driven that individuals should have a balance of reason and emotion to prevent self-destruction.

According to Wordsworth (2016), “imagination as another name for reason in its most exalted mood, total strength, the clearest amplitude and insight of the mind” (167-170). Memory enhances Wordsworth’s speakers to be able to conquer the cruelty of the present world. Recalling their childhood lives offers adults the opportunity to relink with the intense relationship and creative power they had with nature when they were children. The memories, in turn, enhance the adults to rebuild as close as possible the relationship they had with nature that is an antidote to despair, loneliness, and sadness. Remembering assists the poet to write by recalling passionate emotional encounters. This is because it is not possible to create poems at the moment a certain emotion is encountered. It has to be linked with other feelings and thoughts derived from the poet’s past through imagination and memory. Wordsworth complimented on the power of the human mind illustrating that utilizing one’s memory and imagination may assist one to overcome pain and difficulty. The minds transformative powers can be utilized by anyone irrespective of their background or class. It emphasizes uniqueness and individuality. The relationship of poetry and the mind according to Wordsworth was illustrated as emotion recollected in serenity where the mind transformed raw emotions of encounters into poetry that had the ability to give pleasure. Throughout his work, Wordsworth portrayed great support for the religious, artistic and political rights of people that included their power of the mind. Wordsworth also as Goethe seems to indicate that individuals should have a balance of reason and emotion.

Goethe, J. (2016). The Sorrows of Young Werther: In Texts and Traditions Tutorial Readings Spring. Sydney: Western Sydney University.

Wordsworth, W. (2016). The Prelude: In Texts and Traditions Tutorial Readings Spring. Sweden: Western Sydney University.

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