The Sorrows of Young Werther

The Fatal Weapons

The novel The Sorrows of Young Werther engages with a complex discourse of communication. It deals with a society highly lacking in personal communication, yet desperately in need of it. Although Werther longs for intimate face to face communication, books mediate his life, which leads to isolation, and ultimately suicide.

The form the novel takes illustrates a tension that plagues Werther. Though he wants to express himself, it is always through letters. He describes his passionate love not to Lotte but to Wilhelm. Furthermore, the reader is never allowed to experience any of Wilhelm’s answers, producing a kind of unrequited dialogue, or a failed communication. The desire to actually touch Lotte tortures him, as he states “How many times have I been on the point of embracing her!”(113). Yet when he and Lotte do finally embrace, it is via a book.

Books, or more specifically epic poems, seem to dictate Werther’s life. In Book One Werther is consumed by Homer and the “patriarchal ideas”(7) his works demonstrate. Even when he attempts to return to nature, he carries a copy of his book to read under shade while enjoying a cool beverage. He imagines himself to be Odysseus and Lotte “Penelope” (33). As he reads The Odyssey the tone...

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