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Mephistopheles: the Story of a Career

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Mephistopheles takes advantage of Faust’s lack of faith and dissatisfaction to get him to agree to a risky wager. Early in the poem Faust moans that he has studied “Philosophy I’ve read, and Law, and Medicine and fear Theology too.” Though containing more knowledge than the average man, Faust is not satiated. His search for knowledge has led to him to feeling desensitized to feeling. He feels empty as for all he has learned he still feels “no wiser than.” Mephistopheles, who paved his way into Faust’s life through an illusion of a dog, sees Faust as an easy target to corrupt. He states, “Oh, take my word for it, I who have chewed for centuries on this stale food- From birth to a death a man may to his best, but this old leavened lump he’ll not digest” He tries to persuade Faust into believing that he can show him a whole different life if he is able to guide him. Mephistopheles has been waiting on this opportunity as he says, “who mixed a brown Elixir [and] did not drink it down,” showing he has been keeping tabs on Faust and his actions, waiting for the right moment. Faust is intrigued by the proposition by claiming he only cares for life on Earth, which is understandable as he has no concept of life after Earth. He is too intrigued by what his life could become and is too caught in the moment. This falls perfectly in the hands of Mephistopheles plans as Faust comes to terms with the wager. Why does Faust come to terms with the wager when he is dealing with the devil himself? Faust’s wager with Mephistopheles hold that if any experience pleased him absolutely, the devil would in return get his soul. Goethe writes his poem to suggest one shouldn’t pursue evil but also not shy away from it. In the pursuit of transcendence and meaning, there will be actions of bad but also of good. The text shows while pursuing transcendence we also learn about our limitations. As long as one acts within the knowledge of their limitations, their good will outweigh their bad. Goethe shows this through Faust’s journey as even though he is aligned with the devil and takes part in some questionable activities he still never settles and is always looking for more even though Mephistopheles tries his hardest to take his idleness away from him and win the wager. He learns to understand that he cannot be God, something that he had desired, but understands that it not a loss but just the way life is and he should be content.

Mephistopheles tries to interfere with Faust and Margareta’s relationship to ensure Faust ends up with spiritual idleness, so he can win the wager. As Mephistopheles catches Faust in the wilderness he deduces that he seems spiritually happy and that is not want the Devil wants. He interrupts Faust’s peace to add “might I suggest it would befit your majesty to leave this woodland throne reward her for her amorous moan? The time hangs heavy on her hands.” Mephistopheles sees Faust inching away from his agenda and puts a stop on it. He is aware of Margareta’s status in the world and urges Faust to consummate their relationship as he knows the damage it will do. He dampens Faust’s spiritual state of mind up her body and how she awaits him. Faust wants to maintain his spiritual connection to her but also yearns to have sex with her and it doesn’t help with Mephistopheles urging him to do so. As Faust takes the Devils advice things only turn for the worst.

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In Faust’s journey to seal the deal, he poisons Margareta’s mother to death, kills her brother while leaving her in eternal shame not understanding the outcome of his actions. When finding out what happens to Margareta, Faust is enraged, “in misery! In despair! Pitiably wandering about the country for so long and now a prisoner!” He realizes what Mephistopheles has orchestrated and is in complete disgust as he continues “vile treacherous demon, and you told me nothing!” Mephistopheles attempts to brush it off, but Faust can not let it go as his “sweet hapless” love is on her deathbed. What is Goethe’s purpose in showing the relationship between Faust and Margareta? The text shows Mephistopheles tempting people into superficial pursuits rather than appreciating and engaging with someone or something. Love can be something transcendent as you become one with your lover on a spiritual level but can also be purely physical which in turn is meaningless and only diverts you from achieving something actually meaningful. It can also be argued that characters who strive for more and do not settle for simple pleasures are in fact striving toward real experience and love. One type of love is successful in the text and that it between God and his creations, which is shown as Margareta is awaiting to die, but suddenly “she is redeemed.”

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