The Sorrows of Young Werther
Charlotte as Penelope
In Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werther, Werther compares himself with the suitors from Homer's Odyssey. At first his comparison seems only to be an ironic parallel. Like other instances where Werther is over-dramatic and silly in his grand metaphors, it is natural to laugh at the comparison, take little notice, and continue reading. But, in this case, the comparison has several layers of depth since Charlotte, too, has much in common with another Homerian character: Penelope. Charlotte's character resonates with Penelope's because they share many roles: both play the nurturing mother, the loyal wife. And, paradoxically they play these roles of the mother and wife while simultaneously acting as unconscious sirens. Because both Charlotte's and Werther's lives are fashioned so closely to Penelope's and the suitors, Werther's relationship with Charlotte also parallels the suitors' treatment by Penelope: he is destroyed by his love for her.
Upon first reading, Werther's comparison of himself and the suitors from The Odyssey seems to just be ironic, a device that Goethe uses to create humor. Soon after meeting Charlotte for the first time, Werther describes how gathering sugar peas and cooking...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 998 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 7819 literature essays, 2192 sample college application essays, 333 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in