Faust Questions and Answers
by Johann Goethe

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Why did Faust get to go to heaven?

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Robert Lang eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I am going to assume that you are referring to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s two-part tragic play, Faust, published in 1808 and 1832. As you hint, one of the remarkable things about the work is that, unlike most “deal with the devil” tales, Faust actually ends up being saved and redeemed and going to heaven. The primary reason for this is really divine intervention. When the devil finally comes to collect Faust’s soul, angels intervene and carry Faust up to heaven. During the journey, his soul is enlightened and purified. When he arrives, he is met with penitent women, one of them being Faust’s former mistress, who beg the Virgin Mary to save and accept Faust’s soul. She does so. Part of the reason Faust is worthy of redemption and resurrection (of heaven) despite having sold his soul to the devil is that he does undergo a spiritual journey throughout the play; he experiences guilt, remorse, and altruism and learns that he has to strive for purpose, penance, and salvation. This battle within is what ultimately earns him entrance to heaven. The idea impressed upon us by Goethe is that God is benevolent and will save those who strive, even if they have sinned as egregiously as Faust has.

For further reading, I would recommend Miriam Van Scott’s Encyclopedia of Heaven, the work itself, and the eNotes summary cited below.

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