Goethe in Faust and Shelley in Frankenstein: Still the Wretched Fools

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Goethe in Faust and Shelley in Frankenstein: Still the Wretched Fools They Were Before

Jeremy Burlingame

Goethe in Faust and Shelley in Frankenstein, wrap their stories around two men whose mental and physical actions parallel one another. Both stories deal with characters, who strive to be the übermensch in their world. In Faust, the striving fellow, Faust, seeks physical and mental wholeness in knowledge and disaster in lust. In Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein struggles for control over one aspect of nature and disastrously, through the monster, nature controls him to a much greater degree. Many powers are much too mighty for mortal souls, a lesson that Frankenstein and Faust learn by the end of their tales. While voluntarily excommunicating themselves from society, both characters accomplish a portion of their goal and yet they remain unhappy because they never control the "perfect" life they have built for themselves.

In Faust, the intelligent gentleman Faust, seeks spiritual wholeness in knowledge. Through years of hard study, Faust becomes knowledgeable in math, sciences and religion and yet he becomes inept and incapable of having any romantic or physical relationships with the outside world. As Faust strives to become the "over man" through knowledge, he realizes that books will not satisfy his curiosity and that maybe sensual pleasures will. Therefore, in the process of creating his new life, Faust, becomes distant and unconcerned with all reality and humanity around him.

Do not fancy anything right, do not fancy that I could teach or assert what would better mankind or what might convert. I also have neither money nor treasures, nor worldly honors or earthly pleasures; no dog would want to live this way!(p. 95)

Obviously, Faust has fallen into a inhumane state of living, through the pursuit of the unattainable. He becomes greedy, desperate and feels justified in whatever it takes to...
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