Madness and Genius
Prof. Anette Schwarz
Annabelle (Yameng He)
Mother or Lover?
The Relationship between Werther and Lotte
Do we look for people we know in those we meet? After reading this book, I found the relationship between Charlotte and Werther most mysterious. As most people consider they are true friends, but as to me they are more like mother and son. Werther is perhaps redirecting the love he denies to his mother to Lotte, whom he sees as a perfect motherly being. This becomes further complicated, of course, as Lotte becomes increasingly sexualized, which we also see happening in the latter part of the book.
Before analyzing the nature of the relationship between Werther and Lotte, it is imperative to examine Werther’s past. One of the most ambiguous threads in the book is the unexplained relationship between Werther and his mother - a relationship that doesn't receive much interpretation in the novel, but nonetheless informs readers a great deal of Wether’s potential intention, leading to his actions. His aggressive and firm stance on the notion of one’s living his life according to his own passions instead of the directions of someone else may suggest that Werther intentionally avoids living his life according to his mother’s guidance and in so doing. In one letter, Werther writes that he “won’t need the money from [his] mother, for which [he] asked her the other day” - implying that Werther remains financially dependent upon his mother. In the next letter, Werther writes about visiting the place of his birth by saying“I plan to enter the town by the same gate through which my mother drove out with me when she left the dear familiar place after the death of my father to shut herself in the unbearable town where she now lives.” Goethe reveals that Werther is on uneasy relationship with his mother, however, he depends on his mother financially, and yet he does not write her letters directly, instead relying on Wilhelm as a middle man. This unhappy experience with his own family seems to account for a great deal of Werther’s instability. Although Werther’s mother provides financial support for her son, and their estrangement is never fully explained, Werther’s extreme emotion to the motherly figure Lotte suggests the presence of a strong gap between him and his mother as to force him to seek her in another woman.Thus, the unspoken but evident tension between Werther and his mother subtly informs the novel and triggers Werther’s attraction to Lotte.
In the letter of May 13th, Werther mentioned that “I treat my poor heart like a sick child, and gratify its every fancy.” and also in May 22nd, “for I’m ready to admit that they are happiest, like children(...)” Both letters indicate his desire of becoming a child, this is the result of a shatter family, and his inner aspire for nature. Werther sees children as the height of vanity, living happily because they are ignorant, fearing no principle but the rod and delighting in no principle but candy and toys. This cynicism is absent, however, after Werther meets Lotte and her eight brothers and sisters. His letter of June 29th is virtually an encomium to children. He alludes to Jesus Christ's order to his followers to emulate children, and writes, "Any yet, dearest friend, we treat them, who are our equals, whom we should look upon as our models, as our subjects." Werther finds complexity in the simplicity of childhood; there is no doubt that he is happier on the whole in the company of children then he is moving among adults, and nodoubt that he’s willing to become one of one of them.
One of the major focal points in the novel, Werther’s need for a home gets the chance of fulfillment when he meets Lotte. Werther knows he needs a family, and in search of this romanticized family, he stumbles across Lotte’s. When Werther first sees Charlotte S., familiarly called Lotte, who is forced by her mother's untimely death to act as a mother to her...
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