Faust Questions and Answers
by Johann Goethe

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How is Goethe's Faust a synthesis between realism and romanticism?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I would strongly state that Faust is, to my mind, much more Romantic than realistic. However, the first part is more grounded in the real, and the character of Faust is realistic because it is complex. Faust is not one-dimensional, but like a real human, he is a tangled complex of competing good and evil impulses. We feel for his struggles because they are so human: struggles against boredom, against lust, and against his own illusions, to name a few, which he needs to shed to break free from the devil's grasp. Faust, in a word, is relatable. (But, as we shall see, he is also a Romantic character.)

The work is highly Romantic, however, in articulating a love of nature and finding redemption in it, in its deep emotionalism, and in its final salvation of Faust: the overcoming of evil by good is a romantic ideal. Faust himself is a tortured Romantic hero, questing to live in a different and higher way than the average person, wishing to achieve "peak" experiences, and putting a premium on imagination. The work plays to our ideals, exulting humanity's and Christianity's highest values.

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Lorna Stowers eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Johann Goethe's Faust is Romantic text. Given that the text illustrates the influence of Nature (capitalized to illustrate power through personification), one cannot deny the Romantic characteristics of the text. The prologue, as with many texts, sets the mood and the tone for the work as a whole. The prologue illustrates the power of the ocean ("mighty torrents," "roaring," and "ever-speeding"). The image's reality for the reader depends upon the realistic image the author "paints." At one point, Faust even admits his need of nature ("The wilted breast craves you [nature] in thirst- / You well, you still-and I languish in vain?" (Goethe 688). This image illustrates the backbone of Romanticism.

As for Realism, the text illustrates the idea of the human condition (what it means to be human). In this, Faust comes to understand that mankind has various weaknesses. Mephistopheles illustrates this conviction when he says,
"I only see how men will plague themselves." He goes on to state that the action of mankind will only make them more like beasts. Historically, mankind has made decisions which have proved them to be animalistic and lacking of reason.

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