Young Werther is perhaps an extreme case of love gone wrong. Indeed, while it is not normal or reasonable for people to kill themselves when a person they lust for is already spoken for, it does indeed happen even in the modern age. This book by Werther is set in a time not long after the United States Revolution, more than two hundred years ago, but the parallels and morality questions posed by the book are still relevant and important and thus can easily be analyzed and assessed through a modern prism as well as a historical one. The author of this report shall cover a number of perspectives about the book including the sensitivity of Werther, the overall psychological state of Werther, his propensity to compare himself to a child and how society perhaps contributed to the tragic choice that Werther eventually made and how precisely that choice manifested and was executed (Goethe).
The sensitivity of Werther becomes obvious and apparent early on in the Goethe text. This is apparent with the way he speaks. Even though he was of a different age and time, his speech patterns and the way he describes people is clearly indicative of someone who is extremely passionate, emotional and sensitive. Werther himself uses the word "artist" when he describes his mindset and viewpoints. He falls very hard for who turns out to be Lotte right away. After just the first meeting of the woman, he writes in a letter "I left the woman with regret, giving each of the children a Kreutzer, with an additional one for the youngest, to buy some wheaten bread for his broth when she went to town next: and so we parted (Goethe, 2008, p. 18). He then immediately describes how he would go that general area more frequently thereafter as a means to run into the woman again (Goethe, 2008, p. 18). Not even a month later, he elucidates his sensitivity and just how quickly he has fallen for the woman when he writes "everybody so describes their mistress" and "I could not restrain myself -- go to her I must (Goethe, 2008, p. 20).
However, as the book progresses the depth of his obsession gets deeper and deeper. The letter sent on the evening of October 27th proves that. Consisting of only two sentences, he states "I possess so much, but my love for her absorbs it all. I possess so much, but without her I have nothing" (Goethe, 2008, p. 75). For Werther to say that of a woman who is clearly taken is a bit off-putting and unstable. Indeed, this mood does not subside with time as it only gets worse. On November 3rd, he states "Witness, heaven, how often I lie down in my bed with a wish, and even a hope, that I may never awaken again" (Goethe, 2008, p. 75). He does seem to realize his mindset is self-inflicted. Also in the November 3rd letter, he says "I am alone the cause of my own woe, am I not?" (Goethe, 2008, p. 75).
However, Werther is further off of the proverbial rails when he keeps referring to himself and his plight in terms of that a child. On July 8th, he references how and whether Charlotte is looking at him. His very first stanza in that letter is "what a child is man that he should be so solicitous about a look." Further, he signs off by saying "Goodnight -- what a child I am" (Goethe, 2008, p. 34). Not dissimilar from before, he self-realizes when speaking about being child-like when he says on August 8th that "to have seen my position so clearly, and yet to have acted like such a child!" (Goethe, 2008, p. 40).
When it comes to societal expectations regarding the verboten feelings that Werther has about a fiancee of someone else and, eventually, the husband of that same woman after she is married, Werther uses the prior-mentioned term "mistress" at several points within his series of letters. He makes these references in both metaphorical and literal terms. The first major examples occurs on the letter written on May 10th when he says "and then, my friend, when darkness overspreads my eyes, and heaven and earth seem to dwell in my soul and absorb its power, like the form of a beloved mistress -- then I often think with longing, Oh, would I could describe these conceptions, could impress upon paper all that is living so full and warm within me, that it might be the mirror of my soul, as my soul if the mirror of the infinite God!" (Goethe, 2008, p. 11). He gets some advice of sorts about the subject, even if it is a little off the mark, later on when he is told "My good young friend, love is natural: but you must love within bounds. Divide your time: devote a portion to business and give the hours of recreation to your mistress (Goethe, 2008, p. 16). The person offering the advice further says that Werther could offer presents but that it should not be too often and should be limited to birthdays and other special occasions (Goethe, 2008, p. 17).
As is probably already clear from the quotes noted above, there are two main angles and ideas in this book that can be deeply explored and expanded upon. The first idea relates when infatuation turns into obsession. The second is how society deals with the prism of fidelity and relationships. It would be very easy to delve into the religious and moral dimensions of lusting after a married women, let alone getting involved with her or committing suicide because the sordid little love triangle, real or imagined, could not be allowed to subsist and continue. Indeed, there is a lot of talk about how men and women are not "designed" and "wired" to be monogamous. While there may be times and situations where this can hold some truth, it is far from being the norm even in a modern prism. To be sure, having more than two people involved in a relationship, regardless of the manifestation, makes things quite difficult because it is extremely easy for jealously and infighting to take hold. Even in open, polygamous or similar relationships, it only takes one tinge of envy and jealousy to lead to upheaval. So often, again in a modern context, two people will be in what is mutually defined "friends with benefits" arrangement and one of the people will "catch feelings" and it complicates things greatly. Even more complicated is if one or both of the people are attached to someone else and/or has children with another person. It is quite common nowadays for children to be born out of wedlock and for relationships to be so much more transient and fleeting in nature. This was obviously not the case in the late 1700's. Heck, it was not the case even in the 1950's in American and similar cultures were women were expected to be "Suzy Homemaker" and dedicate their full attentions to child-rearing and keeping the house up.
However, obsession and stalking have stood the test of time. Fortunately for Albert and Lotte, Werther was not overtly violent or psychotic towards others as his mental disease was self-inflicting and self-consuming in nature. However, his involvement with the guns, Albert et al. is more than a little macabre and disturbing. Indeed, the very fact that he is willing to kill himself just to "fix" the fact that there is a love triangle is extremely disturbing and odd all at the same time. While any sort of affair between Lotte and Werther would greatly complicate the lives of Albert, Lotte and Werther (not to mention the kids), it is certainly unreasonable to think it is something worth dying over. Further, the fact that Werther fixates and centers his obsession on Lotte is clearly a sign of a person who has become unhinged. This is true in general manifestation but also clear from the depths of psychosis and obsession that Werther falls to.
The author of this report is somewhat sympathetic to Werther but he absolutely engaged in some uncouth and improper behavior over the course of the book. One could say he is a victim of love but this is more a matter of someone who cannot or will not grasp the idea that Lotte had already found her mate in life and the fact that she married Albert proves that she was not willing to break away and go to Werther. Despite this, Werther keeps his fixation and is indeed a victimizer as his suicide and how he involved Albert and Lotte in the same is unfair, overtly hurtful (even if Werther is too depraved and deranged to know this) and spoiled. He was clearly entirely too spoiled and uncompromising. Rather than settle down and realize that there are other "fish in the sea," Werther just does not give…