Discuss about Human’s Nature according to Goethe in ‘Faust’………………
The importance of being a complete human being has exemplified itself through the changes a human being undergoes since conception. A human being undergoes metamorphosis they age and die eventually. In order far a person to be complete, they have to grow; this growth consist different aspects. It is not confined to physical growth as normally perceived. To completely grow it needs a person’s initiative. Spiritual growth, physical growth, emotional growth, financial growth, intellectual growth all entail the idea of being complete in a human being’s mind. Socrates noted that, men are moved to action not by who they are, rather by their own opinions and convictions. The desire that man has to complete himself leads him to engage in the unknown to satisfy this urge. Scientific experiments help to show the need by man to be complete and understand the environment and try understanding things beyond their scope. What comes with this urge to self improve oneself, is either positive or negative. The scientific revolutions that have rocked the world have helped improve the man’s situation but at the same time, they have led to destruction.
Goethe has demonstrated this need of man to improve himself through the character Faust. Faust struggles to better himself in every possible way. Faust who is a scientist and doctor is a very intelligent man. However, he still thinks that he has not reached the pinnacle of education. Faust is of the view that every bit of education has got to be attained if he is to be complete. Given the fact that he is also unhappy with life he makes a decision which turns out to be disastrous not to him alone but to others as well. He makes a deal with the devil (Mephistopheles). This he did because he wanted to understand everything and he figured that he could not do it alone. Because of this thirst of intellectual completeness, two people ended up dying. On the onset, Faust though that he would be happy once he gained all the knowledge, but it begs the question, was getting the information really important to warrant the death of the two people? He had to watch as his wife and her brother die just because je was greedy to acquire all the knowledge. In the end he still gains nothing, in fact he loses more than he acquires. This illustrates that while it is important to strive for self improvement in order to realise completeness, it is important to realise that it is good to know or acquire information, but at the same time we need not be extremely greedy and selfish in the process. To me his advancement was a mistake as it only brought him more stress. It shows how man is not satisfied with what he has. Many other people in his time would have really wanted to be in his position and be able to enjoy his level of intellectual depth, but he did not realise this at all. The predicament of Faust tries to show us that man’s intention of completeness however important, is also limited. What Faust was trying to achieve –in this case- limitless intellect, was a mistake and the limitless intellect was not meant for him after all. It only brought him more harm than good. If he had stuck to the required confines of knowledge definitely he would not have suffered and he would not have made others suffer.
Spiritual development is also included in the package of man’s search for completion. Faust spiritual journey shows how as human beings we strive to find answers to the unknown through hard ways when the answers to the spiritual questions are just a stone throw away. Faust was deeply rooted with the devil. He believed the devil would get him anything he wanted just because the devil said so. He did not realise that in getting favours from the devil, he had to sell his soul. His spiritual naivety at first was so great that he saw himself greater than God. When he makes a deal with the devil, he did not care what happened to his life as long as he got what he wanted fro the devil. The story of Faust shows us the idea of sin and how it helps man attain spiritual completeness. Faust starts by openly and consciously announces his disobedience to God and hr goes ahead to form an allegiance with the devil. However, the worst of sins can still be forgiven in the religious perspective; all that is needed was for Faust to ask God for forgiveness. In the play, Faust has in numerous occasions considered asking God for forgiveness. He was being urged by the good angel and the old man in scene 12. From the play, it becomes clear to Faust that devil represents evil and the Lord represents good. He has to spend an eternity in hell each time he disobeys God. At the end, Faustus comes to understand that only God can save him from himself and from the devil. He desires to repent his sins as illustrated in the final scene and he asks God to forgive and redeem him. He comes to understand that spiritual completeness involves following what God wants. He comes to understand that the devil does not do anything for free as was illustrated in the play. Gretchen also furthers this point. Her community could not spare her for the sin she had committed (it was a crime to get pregnant before marriage in the community). However when she was in jail, she heard a voice from heaven granting her salvation for her sins.
Physical power was envied by Faust. He though that if he had all the power he would feel complete:
“I charge thee wait upon me whilst I live. To do whatever Faustus shall command”. (Act 12, scene 2, lines 33-34).
. The devil knew this desire. He gives Faust the power. Faust begins by collecting and piling up a lot of wealth. As if this was not enough, he wants to redraw the map of Europe and gain political power and therefore wield great influence. However, once he gets the limitless powers, his ambitions are cooled. He instead results to playing magic tricks on simple people and performing tricks for noble men and kings. It was expected that once Faust gained the limitless powers, he would turn out to be very wicked and cruel. However, when he gets the powers he turns to a big joke. In fact he is condemned to mediocrity. To the eyes of the people he uses his power for meaningless delight and he becomes a petty celebrity. He gains the whole world but he has no idea what to do with it. In a desire to complete himself, Faust fails to realise that true greatness can only be achieved if a person has got God’s blessings. By virtue of the fact that he had distanced himself from God, then Faust should have expected that even if he was to gain the whole world, it still would not mean anything if he had cut himself from the creator of the universe.
Faust had the desire to be complete emotionally, she looks at Gretchen and he is immediately hooked to her beauty:
“O love,” he says “lend me the swiftest of your wings, and lead me to her bright regions.” (lines: 2431-2432).
That is why the devil turned him into a handsome man and he was able to successfully seduce Gretchen. During this process he got her pregnant and discovered sex at the same time. The devil pressures him and asks him to leave Gretchen alone. The devil tells him that he does not need to be committed to Gretchen. He could as well have all the other women in the society at the same time. Faust seems drawn to Gretchen a fact which does not please the devil because he knows Gretchen (who represents good also in the play) would turn Faust against him and so the devil would loose Faust’s soul and the bet he had made with God. Faust agrees with the devil and he disowns Gretchen and publicly humiliates her. As a consequence of this, Gretchen is jailed. Faust realises his role in the act and since he loved Gretchen he asks the devil to help him rescue Gretchen as he loves her and he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. Although Gretchen dies in the long run, this instance helps in completing the emotion part of Faust. He realises what it means to love, especially after Gretchen forgives him after all the heartbreak he had caused her.
Man’s ambition of completing himself even though warranted, does come with strings attached. If pursued in the correct way and within the limitations, then good comes out of this desire. However, as has been demonstrated in the book, if greed and self centeredness is the aim of the desire to complete oneself, then the repercussions are not pretty at all.
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