The Sorrows of Young Werther

The Suicide of Young Werther: A Pathological Release College

In the form of a semi-autobiographical epistolary novel, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) composed the highly emotional Die Leiden des jungen Werther within a matter of weeks. Suitably known as a “Briefroman” in German, the novel is a compilation of letters from Werther to his friend, Wilhelm, and is assembled from May 4, 1771 until December 1772 by an unknown third narrator, who concludes the novel after Werther takes his life. It is this narrator who mentions the presence of Lessing’s tragic play Emilia Galotti, opened to an unnumbered page atop Werther’s desk as he slowly dies on the floor. The significance of this reference to Emilia Galotti is fiercely debated, with theories ranging from political to personal reasons as to why Goethe incorporated the bourgeois tragedy. Analyzing key letters written to Wilhelm depicts the deterioration of Werther’s mental state and the manner in which his anxiety and depression lead to his death. In comparison to the concept of suicide in 18th century Europe, Werther’s suicide focuses on the pathology and is independent of religion or theological discourse.

Werther’s suicidal thoughts occur throughout the novel, suggesting Werther’s propensity for mental health instability and his...

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