Please explain why Faust became a Romantic Hero in Faust by Goethe.

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Goethe's position in the literary world is analogous to that of his contemporary and friend Beethoven, who was in the realm of music. Both men were the dominant artistic figures of their period whose art partook of both classical and Romantic elements, and both were declared (correctly) as the great geniuses of the age by the younger generation who fully embraced Romanticism.

Faust is a drama in which many philosophical and aesthetic meanings can be discovered—even existentialism. What appealed to the Romantics were Faust's traits of being a rebel and a searcher, a man who senses an insufficiency and an incompleteness at the bottom of life. This attitude was a reaction against both religion and the secular optimism of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, the Age of Reason.

Faust's quest is an irrational one. The rejection of reason, and the emphasis placed on the supernatural in the drama, are the essence of Romanticism. Faust's dream is to be able to say to "the moment," "Linger, you are so beautiful." In earthly life, he finds no satisfaction, no fulfillment; but unlike the religious, he wants paradise to occur here, on earth, and not in a "next life." The ultimate contradiction is that he wants Mephistopheles, a supernatural figure, to grant this missing, ultimate experience to him. The adult fairy-tale atmosphere of the play is typical of Romanticism and its obsession with the irrational.

The figure of Gretchen is the link between Faust's striving for the impossible and his purely human feelings and concerns. His victimization of Gretchen is symbolic of all men's flaws. That man is both flawed and, simultaneously, a being with supernatural strivings is part of the credo of Romanticism. Faust has this in common with other literary characters of the time: Byron's Manfred, Shelley's Adonais (his apotheosis of Keats), and Coleridge's Ancient Mariner.

One further, though perhaps less significant, expression of the Romantic mindset in Goethe's drama is his brief reference in the Prologue in the Theatre to "our German stage." Nationalism was part of the nineteenth-century mindset overall and had a symbiotic relationship with Romanticism in the arts. Faust first became a Romantic hero to the German-speaking peoples, and then ultimately to the Western World as a whole, as a symbol of both man's humanity and his striving for the impossible.

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Romanticism was a reaction against an emotionless rationality and structured literature that defined the Age of Enlightenment and Reason. Faust personifies this dichotomy on his way to becoming the Romantic hero. Faust starts out as a respected and admired representative of rationality and structure as a quiet-living academic who is an expert in every field of study from Mathematics to Divinity. Faust has spent his life in the pursuit of knowledge, which precluded (i.e., made impossible) involvement in life's pursuits of happineess, pleasure, and feelings.

Now, having found that the knowledge available to him is in the end analysis meaningless ("And see, that nothing can be known! / That knowledge cuts me to the bone."), he is searching for the knowledge of the cosmos "That [he] may detect the inmost force / Which binds the world, and guides its course." He wants to transcend the limits of earth's hold on mortal flesh and with the Moon

on mountains grand,
Amid thy blessed light ... stand, ... [and]
Float [as molecules] in thy twilight the meadows over,

After his encounter with Mephistopheles (Mephisto), Faust is persuaded to wager that Mephisto cannot lure him from his quest by vain pleasure and passion. His wager with Mephisto, which grows bit by bit from the initial,

Canst thou with lying flattery rule me,
Until, self-pleased, myself I see,—
Canst thou with rich enjoyment fool me,
Let that day be the last for me!

ends with a complicated challenge to Mephisto to tempt Faust and distract him through life's feelings:

Let us the sensual deeps explore,
To quench the fervors of glowing passion! ....
Then may delight and distress,
And worry and success,
Alternately follow, as best they can: ....

This is where Faust symbolically leaves behind the rational approach of the Age of Enlightenment and Reason and becomes the Romantic hero. In his new persona--as the Romantic, feeling, passionate hero--Faust engages in lust and murder and horror and despair when he seduces Gretchen (thanks to the motivation given by Mephisto's magical potion), then murders Gretchen's brother Valentine (while under Mephisto's control), then suddenly learns with rage about Gretchen's murders and imprisonment, then fails in earnest and heart-wrenching attempts to rescue her from execution. In Faust Part II, Faust becomes a Classical hero and is no longer a Romantic hero because Goethe renounced Romanticism in 1777 and pursued Classicalism thereafter.

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