The Sorrows of Young Werther

Malaise in J.W. Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther College

J.W Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther is heavy with a sense of malaise, as it describes a young man's decent into mental instability which ends in his suicide. The cause of this sense of malaise lies with the narrator himself, as his own mental state leaks through into his letters to Wilhelm, creating a largely melancholy tone. The novel in itself contains little in the way of true tragedy, up until Werther's suicide which does not occur until the end. This suggests that the malaise at the heart of the novel originates within Werther himself rather than anything that may occur in the book. Although the malaise channelled into Werther's letters is heightened by an unrequited love and public humiliation by the Aristocratic class, it is his deep inner malaise that prevents him from dealing with these events, resolving instead to kill himself.

On the surface, the phenomenon of unrequited love appears to lie at the heart of the novel's sense of malaise. Werther's love for Lotte creates a profound sense of discomfort for both parties as he pursues her in spite of her already being with Albert. Werther's feelings for Lotte also trigger his descent into depression and serve as the direct situational cause of his suicide. Indeed,...

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