The hero that never was In Faust,Johann Wolfgang von Goethe builds a dramatic poemaround the strengths and weaknesses of a man who under apersonalized definition of a hero fails miserably. A hero issomeone that humanity models themselves and their actionsafter, someone who can be revered by the masses as anindividual of great morality and strength, a man or womanthat never sacrifices his beliefs under adversity. Therefore,through his immoral actions and his unwillingness to respectothers rights and privileges, Faust is determined to be a manof un heroic proportions. It is seen early in the poem, thatFaust has very strong beliefs and a tight moral code that isdeeply rooted in his quest for knowledge. Sitting in his den,Faust describes his areas of instruction, “I have, alas, studiedphilosophy, jurisprudence and medicine, too, and, worst ofall, theology with keen endeavor, through and through..
.” Itis obvious that through his studies he has valued deep andcritical thinking, however with the help of Mephisto, hewould disregard his values and pursue the pleasures of theflesh. Faust’s impending downward spiral reveals the greedthat both Mephisto and Faust share.
Mephisto’s greed isevident in the hope that he will overcome Faust’s moralityand thus be victorious in his wager with God; also becausehe is the devil and that is what he does. For Faust, greedemerges because of his desire to attain physical pleasuresand therefore become whole in mind, body and spirit.Faust’s goal to become the Uberminche is an understandabledesire, however, the means at which he strives for thoseends are irresponsible and unjust. It is through this greed thatFaust with the help of Mephisto exploit others in the pursuitof Faust’s earthly desires. Enter innocent Gretchen, a poorlower class young woman who experiences the impossible,love. Under Mephisto’s magical potion, Faust becomesintoxicated with passion and controlled by his hormones. Itis under this spell that he approaches the “beautiful”Gretchen, however, the feeling of passion is not mutualbetween the two.
Faust realizes then, that his simple looksand personality will not attract Gretchen, rather Faust mustdeceive and manipulate this woman in order to possess her.Thus, Faust turns to Mephisto for help in his quest forGretchen, “Get me that girl, and don’t ask why?”(257)Mephisto replies with a quote that establishes the nature atwhich Faust will pursue Gretchen with, “We’d waste ourtime storming and running; we have to have recourse tocunning.”(261) It is from this point in the story that Faustdeclines into a state of immorality and irresponsibility; a levelhe will remain at for the majority of the story. Faust’simmorality emerges from the idealization that despite harmingothers, there are not any consequences to his actions.
Theharm in combining Faust and Mephisto is that their actionsbecome dangerous and deadly. Faust becomes anunstoppable, Napoleonic figure, when his irresponsibility ismixed with Mephisto’s lethal power. Gretchen is Faust’s firstvictim, before her death she was responsible for threedeaths; ultimately she is imprisoned because of Faust’sinfluence upon her.
Faust’s desire for progress andreformation in society led to the deaths of his second set ofvictims, an elderly couple. Thus, Mephisto burns them out, aresult that Faust had not asked for specifically, but an actionwhich served the purpose and was almost as detrimental aswhat Faust had intended for them, to move them out of theirhome. This action against the elderly is analogous to anyother parts of the story in which Faust commits an illegal orimmoral act to heighten himself in his own eyes. It is obviousthen that Faust is a criminal, a man who abuses the rights ofothers to gain spiritual and financial freedom for himself. Acriminal is a personn that should neither be rewarded oridealized for his actions against society. The only endeavorthat Faust does in order to save himself, is to feel apologeticand remorseful for his immoral and self-serving actions, andis therefore allowed into heaven, an ending to the storywhich is unreal and unbelievable.
Heaven should be a placewhere men and women who are virtuous and contain traitssuch as honesty, morality and decency should reside to.Rather, Goethe poetically sends a man whose indirectlymurdered, is dishonest and greedy to such a wondrous andmagical location only because he admits that what he didwas wrong. Attaining passage into heaven is the onlyaccomplishment that Faust makes in order to attain a heroesstatus.
Even this final accomplishment is questionable,because God would not allow a man so unworthy toaccompany people who have such a high moral standardand irrefutable grace. Faust then, neither falls under theclassical definition of a hero except that he was, “…
favoredby the gods” and he does not fit into my personal definitionof a hero. For Faust is not someone whose actions shouldbe followed, he sacrificed his beliefs under adversity andmost importantly; he destroyed anyone’s life if it conflicted toany aspect of his plan for superiority. Faust then, may beconsidered the greatest un hero to have ever attain passageinto heaven. Book Reports