Goethe In Faust And Shelley In Frankenstein

: Still The Wretched Fools They Were
Before Essay, Research Paper

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


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 ?bermensch 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 achieve a position of the over man. At that time,

Christians and society in general considered his pursuit for lust immoral,

unjust and irresponsible. When Faust sets his sights on an object, whether

knowledge or women, he demands nothing less of himself than that which will get

it. In many situations dedication to an act is reputable; education, sports,

career. It seems then, that to become the ?bermensch and pursue excellence,

one must stay dedicated to one’s goal and dismiss the world around him.

In the process of creating his monster, Victor Frankenstein ignores the

outside world;

The summer months passed while I was thus engaged, heart

and soul, in one pursuit. It was a most beautiful season;

never did the fields bestow a more plentiful harvest, or the

vines yield a more luxuriant vintage: but my eyes were

insensible to the charms of nature. And the same feelings which

made me neglect the scenes around me caused also to forget

those friends who were so many miles absent…(p.53)

Frankenstein becomes so wrapped up in his curiosity of creation, that he

utterly ignores the outside world. Therefore, Faust and Frankenstein’s desire

to create, lead them to withdraw themselves from society. Faust desires to

create love and possess a woman, so that he can feel all that the world has to

offer. Frankenstein, desires to create life and become a motherly figure

which supersedes any other emotion or need. Although, the characters have

different desires their actions and thoughts are closely identical. Even after

the successfulness of creating what they anted for themselves, Faust and

Frankenstein remain unhappy.

This unhappiness causes Faust and Frankenstein to commit acts far more

evil than ever before. In this unhappiness, Faust’s emotions become irrational

and immoral towards Gretchen and Frankenstein ignores his “beautiful” creation.


When Victor’s creation transforms itself from idea to reality,

Frankenstein immediately looses control over it and himself.

…but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream

vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my

heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I

had created, I rushed out of the room, and continued a

long time traversing my bedchamber, unable to compose my

mind to sleep.(p.56)

This example communicates not only the lack of maturity which

Frankenstein contains but also the thoughtlessness that he has toward his

creation. Frankenstein reveals, through his running, fainting and the coma

that he had not thought of the ramifications and responsibilities that his

creation entailed.

Before they created, Faust and Frankenstein thought that the mere

creation and use of a magic-like powers would imediately bring joy to their

lives. However, when their magical creations became reality and brought them

more pain they removed themselves from the situation. It can be seen then that

using these magical powers in order to gain material objects is destructive


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