Faust. First Part Summary
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Faust. First Part Summary

The play Faust is a tragedy with the main character fighting against both Mephistopheles and his own lack of self-confidence. Faust signs a pact with Mephistopheles to serve him if Mephistopheles finds something that makes Faust want to live. Faust's search for earthly happiness ultimately leads to the destruction of a young girl through an unwed pregnancy and murder.

During a meeting between the Lord and Mephistopheles, the Lord offers Mephistopheles a challenge to try to draw Faust away from service to the Lord. Mephistopheles accepts the challenge. Faust first appears in deep melancholy as he contemplates the uselessness of the knowledge he has acquired. He is at the point of suicide when his faith is bolstered by the songs of the Easter celebration. As Faust enjoys his renewed faith, he encounters a black poodle. This poodle disturbs Faust as he tries to study the Word. The poodle finally transforms into Mephistopheles who offers to serve Faust the remainder of his life if Faust will serve Mephistopheles in the afterlife. Faust agrees with the exception that Mephistopheles must present him with something that makes him want to live.

Mephistopheles first takes Faust to a tavern where Faust is not comfortable with the reveling crowd and finally asks permission to leave. Mephistopheles then takes Faust to a witch who gives him a potion to make him appear younger. While at this witch's home Faust sees an image of a beautiful girl in a mirror. His one desire becomes to make this girl his own. The two meet on the street and the girl brushes Faust off. Through the workings of Mephistopheles, Faust and Gretchen met again and this time they fall in love with each other.

Through their relationship, Gretchen becomes pregnant, a circumstance considered unforgivable by the standards of that time. Gretchen's brother, Valentine is killed by Faust and Mephistopheles as he tries to defend his sister's honor. Gretchen's mother is also killed when she is given an overdose of a sleeping potion by Gretchen. After Gretchen gives birth to her baby, she becomes crazy and drowns the child. At the conclusion of the play she is being held in prison for her crimes. Faust visits her with the intention of freeing her from jail but does not succeed. While Mephistopheles tells Faust Gretchen's soul is doomed, a voice from heaven declares the girl is redeemed. The state of Faust's soul is uncertain.

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