The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johanne Wolfgang von Goethe
Although the title of this book might seem like the story is just Werther complaining on and on about his life, that’s far from it. In fact, Werther seems to see the beauty in everything—even in suicide—without much filter to his thoughts. The book is really short, and mostly comprised of Werther’s letters to his friend, Wilhelm.
It’s basically about Werther moving to a new town to finish his law degree and falling in love with the town’s judge’s daughter—who just so happens to be engaged. One of the reasons I wanted to read this book was because I saw the movie of the author’s, Goethe’s young years, which is what the book is mainly inspired from.
One of the big differences between Goethe’s and Werther’s story is that Werther ended up committing suicide, while Goethe became famous for his sorrowful book instead.
END OF SPOILER!
The book was especially popular and relatable at the time because most young men and women were forced into marriages where they didn’t necessarily, love, like, or even know the significant other. So, naturally, lots of people couldn’t marry the ones they loved and the book hit a really soft spot for many. Instantly, it was a sensation.
Even though it was only 88 pages long, it took me a while to get through it. There were times I couldn’t stop reading and times I had to force myself to open the page, but over all, I found the writing the most precious part of the story.
Some honorary extracts:
“If you inquire what the people are like here, I must answer, ‘the same as everywhere’. The human race is but a monotonous affair. Most people spend the greatest part of their time working in order to live, and what little freedom remains so fills them with fear that they seek out any and every means to be rid of it.”
“No one is willing to believe that adults too, like children, wander about this earth in a daze and, like children, do not know where they come from or where they are going, act as rarely as they do according to genuine motives, and are as thoroughly governed as they are by biscuits and cake and the rod.”
“I am proud of my heart alone, it is the sole source of everything, all our strength, happiness and misery. All the knowledge I possess everyone else can acquire, but my heart is all my own.”
“I examine my own being, and find there a world, but a world rather of imagination and dim desires, than of distinctness and living power. Then everything swims before my senses, and I smile and dream while pursuing my way through the world.”
“How many kings are governed by their ministers, how many ministers by their secretaries? Who, in such cases, is really the chief?”
“Does not man lack the force at the very point where he needs it most? And when he soars upward in joy, or sinks down in suffering, is not checked in both, is he not returned again to the dull, cold sphere of awareness, just when he was longing to lose himself in the fullness of the infinite?”