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In the beginning of Faust Part I & II, Faust is discontent with his knowledge and skills and, as he tells Wagner in "City Gate," desires to hover between the sky and ocean and stay with the setting sun as it sinks, ever moving with it. This symbolizes Faust's desire to attain the heretofore unattainable, to grasp at the knowledge that unravels the mysteries of the physical and metaphysical universe. [Faust would feel right at home today since contemporary science is unraveling these mysteries and does hover between sky and sea with many satellites and the Space Station.] In order to attempt to attain his aspiration, Faust even seeks to negotiate with the Macrocosm, a magic spell he succeeds in casting, only to be told that he is too small a being to contend with the power he has called forth and is therefore unceremoniously recommended to a being from the lesser, weaker Microcosm, Mephistopheles.
By the end of Faust Part II, Faust has loved and lost first Gretchen then the Homunculus, then Helen and their baby. He has been Mephistopheles' pawn before an Emperor and consorted with the creatures of Greek mythology. All these experiences changed Faust's feeling so that his new aspiration was to build a paradise where water was tamed and held back so a fertile valley of plenty could grow up and nourish body and soul of its inhabitants. One obstacle remained in his path, the old man and old woman who lived in a cottage where Faust designed his final improvements.
Faust ordered them removed to safety so that when the work was done, they could be given comforted and plenty and so end their days in peace. Mephistopheles countermanded his order and had them killed. Because of this, Faust has an encounter with Care, the personification of what is defined as anxiety and worry. Faust refuses to understand Care's riddles and Care blinds him.
Faust, who has come to regret his use of magic following the death of the old man and woman, has his final epiphany, although in seeming mild language, in which he realizes the true goal is a "Free earth: where a free race, in freedom, stand" (11580). And, in fulfillment with his original wager with Mephistopheles, Faust says that to such a world he could say, "‘Stay a while! You are so lovely!’" (11582). Here we learn that Faust has in fact won the wager, and proved God's statements in the Prologue to be true, because the thing to which Faust will say "Stay!" isn't the fleshly pleasure that Mephistopheles has tempted him with in one form or another, but freedom, physical and metaphysical and spiritual freedom.
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