The Sorrows of Young Werther

The Sorrows of Young Werther: Passion vs. Rationality

In "The Sorrows of Young Werther", by Goethe, one of the prevalent themes is the control that passion wields over one's actions. Passion may cause one to act irrationally, a belief that Goethe espoused despite the paradigm that dominated the society of his day: that man should allow rationality and common sense to control his life. The story takes place in Germany in 1771, and is written in epistolary form. The letters are composed by a lovesick man named Werther, destined to take his life because the object of his affection is married to another, and are addressed to a trusted friend named Wilhelm. Werther takes a romantic view on life, letting his heart and passions guide him. He sees death as a heroic escape, often favors imagination over reality, and hates the fact that the men of his time are mechanical, static conformists that allow so-called "common sense" to rule their decisions.

Passion and romantic ideals lead Werther down the path that will ultimately end in his demise. When speaking of a friend, Werther states that "he admires my intelligence and my talents more than my heart, which is, after all, my only pride, and the fountainhead of all - all strength, happiness and misery" (97)....

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