WERTHER AND SELF DECEPTION
Romanticism was deeply interested in creating art and literature of suffering, pain and self-pity. With poets pining for a love long gone and dead and authors falling for unavailable people, it appears that romantics in literature were primarily concerned with self-injury and delusion. In Goethe's novel "The Sorrows of Young Werther", we find another romantic character fulfilling his tragic destiny by falling victim to extreme self-deception.
Werther's story may appear simple and even trite to some- a young man falls in love with a woman he can never be with and deludes himself into believing that she loves him too only to be severely disappointed in the end. When nothing is left to look forward to, Werther kills himself. Durkheim describes this type of suicide as egoistic suicide where a person kills himself to make other people feel sorry. "Egoistic suicide," Durkheim writes, "results from man's no longer finding a basis for existence in life" (258). But on closer analysis, this story is anything but simple. It is a psychologically complex tale that fully unearths the extreme internal mental conflict that a person in such a situation would undergo. Many claim that this story is autobiographical in nature but that is beyond the scope of our present discussion.
Romantic literature was on the one hand concerned with tragedy and on the other it also dwelled on sympathy. It was the aim of most romantic writers and poets to engage in development of characters that would attract sympathy and pity. However in this novel, while it may be sympathy, pity or self-injury that served as one of the motivating forces behind creation of the character of Werther, it also appears that psychological exploration of the mental state of a person caught in this unfortunate situation was the main aim. Werther's character is seriously delusional. He deceives himself regularly making himself believe that Lotte, the woman he had fallen in love with,...
References: 1. Durkheim, Emile. Suicide: A Sociological Approach. Trans. John A. Spaulding. New York: Free, 1951.
2. Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. The Sorrows of Young Werther and Selected Writings. Trans. Catherine Hutter. New York: Signet, 1962.
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