Goethe's Faust

This is my personal interpretation of the book "Faust". My interpretation may not be an accurate representation of the book's actual plot. This article is here to detail what I took away from reading it. Because this book is inscrutable (in my humble opinion) be prepared for a wacky, if not overly inaccurate review.


My Synopsis

Faust is a fascinating tale of a man that makes a deal with a demon. The protagonist, Heinrich Faust, has a seemly unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Overly tired of worldly knowledge, he begins to dabble in the dark arts in pursuit of otherworldly knowledge. After many failed attempts to gain infinite knowledge, a demon finally appears before him. The demon's name is Mephistopheles and he offers Faust a deal. The demon will do anything that Faust wants within his lifetime, and in return Faust is to serve him for eternity in hell.

Faust finds the deal acceptable under the condition that he will only die when he finds such joy in his life that would make him want to live forever in that moment, be it sooner or later. The deal is done and Faust begins to make his demands. In his adventures, Faust meets a woman named Margaret and eventually falls in love with her. He uses Mephistopheles to capture her heart. First he has the demon place a small box of jewels in her room. Then he arranges to meet the woman in person by sending the demon to Margaret's neighbor's house while Margaret is there.

Mephistopheles speaks to the neighbor, Martha, under the guise that he is there to tell her that her husband had died. This is a lie and it is mentioned that they need to "make a deposition valid". I believe Faust is wanting the man to actually die but Mephistopheles doesn't think it is necessary. I believe I need some clarity on this. Maybe he is already dead. I'm not sure. After a short conversation the demon is able to set up a meeting between Faust and Margaret with Faust acting as a legal witness to the death. Upon meeting, Margaret is very enamored with Faust, as he is with her. They meet many more times, giving Faust a sense of euphoria. They intend to consummate their relationship, but Margaret states that she cannot due to her mother being present in the house. Faust offers her a potion that will put her mother into a deep sleep. 

They consummate their relationship, but the mother never wakes up. The potion had killed her. Not only that, Margaret is pregnant. To make things worse, her brother, a soldier, comes home furious. He finds Faust and Mephistopheles outside of Margaret's house and attacks them. Faust is persuaded by the demon to kill him, and so he does. Faust and the demon run off while Margaret comes outside to see what the commotion was about. To her surprise, her bother lay dying outside of the house. He says some harsh words to her and then passes away.

Time goes by and Faust is attending a festival with the demon. The festival is called Walpurgis Night. After a night of dancing and fun (it didn't seem that fun to me) he is soon stricken with horrible news. It seems that Margaret had gone mad (with the help of some evil whispering in her ear) and drowned her baby. She was sentenced to death and locked inside of a jail. Needless to say Faust is stricken and in rage upon hearing the news. He demands that Mephistopheles help him rescue her. They depart to the jail, knowing that the law and some vengeful spirits are looking for Faust.

Faust finally reaches the jail and finds Margaret in a cell. He comes in and tries to hurry her out, but she seems off. She had gone mad due to all of the tragedy that had befallen her. She hallucinates and speaks oddly. She doesn't recognize Faust at first, thinking he is there to execute her. Faust attempts to get her out of the jail are in vain, as she seems too far gone. She cries out for salvation and a voice says "She is saved". Faust escapes with Mephistopheles and the book ends with the echoing cries from Margaret, "Henry! Henry!".

Nikola Tesla

Faust was Nikola Tesla's favorite book and we can envision just how much of an impact it had on his life. Tesla worked his whole life in order to gain the immense knowledge he had collected. What would he have done for infinite knowledge? Considering what he did for the knowledge concerning mechanical and electrical engineering, we could imagine he would have done absolutely anything.


I think that book was very well written. In fact, too well. I found myself looking up the definition of a word on almost every page. The book is translated from German and written with an old English style. A lot of "Thou, wins't, er'e and ye". Goethe seems to have had a vocabulary rivaling that of the dictionary. I couldn't imagine how hard the translations had to have been, even years after it was published.

Some of the pages flow very nicely and the rhythm is easily maintained. Other pages don't have much of a rhythm at all and you find yourself getting confused, having to read the same line twice. Surely the woe of translation (but most likely my limited vocabulary). Though, I have heard that even native German speakers have trouble reading this book. Be sure that my vocabulary has been enhanced by this book.

I did not like the way the book ended. I realize that a second part was written quite a few years after, but this one should have wrapped the plot up better. What happened to Faust? Did he ever find his forever moment and get pulled into the burning hells bellow? Did he quit his thirst for knowledge after his destructive interference into Margaret's life? The book wrapped up Margaret's ending quite well, but the main protagonist didn't seem to get any closure, be it good or bad.

The book in total took me about 7 hours to read. It consists of around 250 pages, including the preface which I highly encourage you to read. The story was wonderful and it keep me deep in thought more times than I like to admit. Even while the book was closed I was thinking about it. I found myself sometimes speaking in rhymes and rhythm due to the overexposure of it while reading.


Overall I would rate the book a 4 out of 5. This rating is mostly based on the amount of time spent looking up definitions and the sheer difficulty in trying to decipher some of the archaic text. I also took some points off for the abrupt ending.


A Few Quotes I liked from the Book

Wagner (Faust's Attendant)

Most zealously I seek for erudition:
Much do I know, but to know all is my ambition.


Faust on learning the dark arts

Neither scruples nor doubts come now to smite me,
Nor Hell nor Devil can longer affright me.


Faust speaking to himself in his study

Why must the stream so soon run dry and fail us,
And burning thirst again assail us


Mephistopheles when persuading Faust to make a deal with him.

In this sense, even, canst thou venture.
Come, bind thyself by prompt indenture,
And thou mine arts with joy shalt see:
What no man ever saw, I'll give to thee


Faust on seeing Margaret

By Heaven, the girl is wondrous fair!
Of all I've seen, beyond compare;
So sweetly virtuous and pure,
And yet a little pert, be sure!


Discussion between Margaret and Mephistopheles

I am a creature young and poor:
The gentleman's too kind, I'm sure.
The jewels don't belong to me

Ah, not alone the jewelry!
The look, the manner, both betray-
Rejoiced am I that I may stay!


Margaret after meeting Faust

Dear God! However is it, such
A man can think and know so much?
I stand ashamed and in amaze,
And answer "Yes" to all he says,
A poor, unknowing child! and he
I can't think what he finds in me!


The Choruses at Walpurgis Night

The wind is hushed, the star shoots by.
The dreary moon forsakes the sky;
The magic notes, like spark on spark,
Drizzle, whistling through the dark.


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