2008: 59. The Sorrows of Young Werther

“How happy I am that I am gone! My dear friend, what a thing is the heart of man!”

The Sorrows of Young Werther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This is the classic of the Romantic school, a story that set off a movement across Europe.  It is absolutely ridiculous, and it is hard to believe that it set off such a fuss - it’s the story of an over emotional young man named Werther, who moves to a small town in Germany, falls in loved with a betrothed woman, can’t get over her even after she marries the other man, moons about writing ridiculous letters and feeling sorry for himself, and eventually (SPOILER) commits suicide because he is JUST. SO. MISERABLE.  I actually quite enjoyed the book, because I think it’s a perfectly honest capture of ridiculous youth and how certain over emotional types work (i.e., young Werther seriously was in need of therapy).  So I enjoyed the book, even as I loathed Werther.  But it is hard to imagine a generation of European youth finding him a role model, when he’s so ridiculous a character.   Goethe (who wrote the book in full passion, and believed in young Werther) eventually regretted having written it because of what it said about his own youth, but I think that the book is a grand read, if you read it with the proper sense of detachment.

Date/Place Completed: 5/14/08; D.C.

Categories: Fiction; Commuting Book

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017