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Love Theme in Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther

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In The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, there is a lot to say, already, about the character of Werther just in the very first few pages. It is clear that Werther is in a very dark place, and he has a very dark view on almost everything he knows. Even though the first few dated entries is sort of introduction to the mind of Werther, Goethe sort of writes as if the reader already knows of Werther. In the very first line of the novel Goethe writes, “To leave you, from whom I have inseparable, whom I love so dearly, and yet to feel happy” (1). Werther is talking about this woman that the reader has no clue about; only her name, Leonora, is known. Knowing that the very first part of the novel is about a woman and Werther’s feelings towards her, you can already sense that one of the major themes of the whole entire novel is something we all feel: love. Even though he has done “poor Leonora” wrong, a sense of feeling is still there. Goethe introduces Werther as if the reader already knew of him before the work was written, and by quickly diving into Werther’s mind, it is clear that Werther has many internal issues that he faces. Specifically, this theme of love is meticulously recognized in both the May 10 and June 16 entries. These two entries show just Werther is thinking, and how all of his craziness actually supports the overall theme of love.

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In the very beginning of the May 10 letter, Goethe writes a beautiful sentence that is both sad and beautiful at the same time. Goethe writes, “A wonderful serenity has taken possession of my entire soul, like these sweet mornings of spring which I enjoy with my whole heart” (2). Even though this sentence is fairly negative, the syntax in which Goethe writes is just beautiful. With adjectives like “wonderful”, “sweet”, and “whole”, the sentence has a very positive vibe to it, and it contributes to the overall theme of love. However, this letter is actually rather depressing. Werther is explaining how his capability to draw art is slowly fading away. This makes him sad. Also, he makes a lot of references to different aspects of nature. Werther is speaking about the different “insects and flies” to justify the very presence of God on Earth. The introduction of nature into the writing almost always directly relates to the theme of love. This letter is both negative and positive. While Werther has lost his artistic drive, he has noticed other beauties.

In the June 16 letter, there is a major shift in the actual novel itself. In this letter, Werther meets a woman named Charlotte at a party he was invited to. There is a lot in this letter that contributes to the overall theme of love. Werther very clearly explains how he was in awe when he was in Charlotte’s presence. He says, “I uttered some indifferent compliment: but my whole soul was absorbed by her air, her voice, her manner” (11). He was completely stunned by her beauty. Also, both Werther and Charlotte have a very special moment on the dance floor. When he finally dances with her, he gets a feeling that he absolutely had never felt before. Werther says, “I felt myself more than mortal, holding this loveliest of creatures in my arms, flying with her as rapidly as the wind, till I lost sight of every other object” (14). It was if Werther was in another world when he was dancing with her. He completely deleted the sight of everything else as he was dancing, and at that moment, it was just Charlotte. From that moment on, even with all that Werther goes through, the rest of the novel is written as if Werther’s mind was just on one person: Charlotte.

The overall theme of love is clearly seen throughout this novel. Even though Werther is a certified maniac, and has many psychotic thoughts, Goethe puts in these certain moments that remind the reader that The Sorrows of Young Werther is actually a love story. It is a story about a man who is deeply in love with someone who generally does not feel the same way. That is what is all comes down to. This novel holds many pieces to the big puzzle, but Goethe writes so that if you just circle back, you will always end up at love.

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