Faust. First Part Themes

This Study Guide consists of approximately 25 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Faust. First Part.
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Faith

One of the questions raised by the play "Faust" concerns how one defines faith and how one determines how much faith one has. Both Gretchen and Faust have faith, but they have faith of differing levels. In the opening prologue, the Lord refers to Faust as His servant. Even the Lord admits that Faust serves Him in confusion. This indicates Faust has faith, but a confused faith. The first scene of the play does not seem to show Faust as a man who has any faith at all. Even before his encounter with Mephistopheles, Faust contemplates, and almost commits, suicide. Faust's faith is restored, however, when he hears the singing of the Easter hymns. Faust's small amount of faith is again shaken when he is disturbed by the poodle as he attempts to study God's Word. It is at this point that Mephistopheles takes over and attempts to destroy what is left of Faust's faith.

Gretchen, on the other hand, is a character with a living, growing faith. She is young, but during her first appearance in the play Mephistopheles says he has no power over her because of her faith. It is the result of Gretchen's faith that she is able to recognize the bad influence Mephistopheles has over Faust and encourage Faust not to socialize with Mephistopheles. It is interesting, however, that Gretchen's mother senses the jewels came from an evil source while Gretchen does not sense this same evil source. Consider especially that Gretchen quickly felt Mephistopheles' presence in her room the day the jewels were left although the demon had already left.

Battle Between Good and Evil

The main theme of this play can be defined as the struggle between good and evil. This struggle is not only seen in Faust's pact with Mephistopheles but also in Faust's relationship with Gretchen. The theme is introduced in the prologue when the Lord gives Mephistopheles permission to try to draw Faust away from the Lord's service. The struggle between the Lord and the devil is the ultimate battle between good and evil that will last until the end of time. This battle is seen especially clearly in the transformation of Gretchen once she becomes involved with Faust. Faust's uncertain belief makes him an easy target for the devil while Gretchen appears to have a deep and unending faith. Gretchen, however, takes a most drastic fall as she becomes pregnant out of wedlock, accidentally murders her mother, and then kills her child. Even with all of these faults, however, at the end of the play it is announced that Gretchen's soul has been saved. The status of Faust's soul at the end of the play remains a mystery.

The Limits of the Mephistopheles' Power

Although it is well known that the Lord is all powerful, it appears in this play that the devil has limits in his power. First, he is limited by the laws of hell to leave a room by the same manner in which he entered. Mephistopheles is also limited in his power by certain witch symbols and signs. It is for this reason that Faust is able to hold the devil captive for a short while. Mephistopheles is also not all-knowing, or omniscient, as the Lord is. It appears Mephistopheles must gain his knowledge about people by eavesdropping. In the end of the play Mephistopheles again shows his lack of power by telling Faust he has no power to save Gretchen from the prison. The can be compared to his lack of power to save a person's soul, only to condemn it.

Mephistopheles does, however, have power to find or conjure the jewels that Faust gives to Gretchen. In fact, he is able to produce two sets of jewels. Mephistopheles also has power over witches and witchcraft. He is able to command the witch to create a potion that will cause Faust to appear younger. He admits he is able to mix this potion himself but does not have to patience to do so. Also note that Gretchen finds herself unable to pray while Mephistopheles is present. This evidences that Mephistopheles does have power to influence those around him not to worship or talk to God. Also while disguised as a poodle, Mephistopheles distracts Faust from studying the Word, by making noise.

This section contains 714 words
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