The Sorrows of Young Werther

The Sorrows of Young Werther Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What does Goethe think about Werther? Is his protagonist a brilliant enthusiast of emotionalism, a self-absorbed villain, or something in between? Use textual evidence in making your case.

  2. 2

    What are your impressions of Wilhelm? Although he doesn't speak for himself in Werther, he is a constant presence simply in being addressed. What is Wilhelm like, and who else in the novel is like him?

  3. 3

    Discuss the women in Werther. What is Werther's opinion of the ideal woman? What qualities does she possess? Does Goethe agree with Werther, or is there some distance between them on this issue?

  4. 4

    What is the role of class in the novel? Who is high class, who is low class, and where does Werther fit in this schema? Describe his attitude toward the lower classes.

  5. 5

    Discuss the sideplots of Werther, especially focusing on the story of the country lad and the widowed employer whom he loves.

  6. 6

    Madness is a lurking force in Werther. Who in the novel is mad? What is the meaning of madness in the novel?

  7. 7

    Why is the editor a part of Werther? How does his or her presence influence the novel? What does it mean for Werther to have been edited, and how should the reader respond to this fact?

  8. 8

    Is Werther good with children? What role does he play in his relationships with them? What is his opinion of them?

  9. 9

    Discuss Werther's relationship with his mother. Werther never addresses her directly and seems to have a strained relationship with her; for instance, she doesn't even hear about his death at the novel's end, let alone attend the funeral (which takes place nowhere near her). Find textual clues as to the nature of this relationship. Why isn't she a focal point of the novel - or is she?

  10. 10

    What is Werther's attitude toward learning? Is it as simple as he represents it?