Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Writing Styles in Faust

This Study Guide consists of approximately 33 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Faust.
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Point of View

The point of view used in Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is third person omniscient. This is particularly accurate when setting and religious views and discourse are of great importance to the story. Third person allows Goethe to give the reader great insight into the sights and sounds encountered by each character.

Goethe's descriptions of Germany, its people and the living conditions of the area are expressed well and allow the reader to see and understand the vast difference in the classes, religious values and varied personalities in the story. For example, a first person point of view could not equally represent Faust and Gretchen as their backgrounds are worlds apart and often completely foreign to each other.

It is also important to be able to observe the actions of those unseen, such as the Lord, Mater Gloriosa, the angels, and the disembodied spirits. It would not be possible to experience and understand the action behind the scenes from any other point of view.

Additionally, it allows the reader to get insight into things that may not have been seen and heard by Faust or Mephisto, to learn about the story through an omniscient set of eyes and to experience the journeys of the characters like Faust, Wagner, Gretchen, Mephisto, and others.


There are several settings used throughout Goethe's Faust.

The first settings include Heaven and Hell, which are the final resting places for souls that have left their human forms after death. Unlike many famous pieces of literature, the existence of Heaven and Hell is never questioned.

Heaven is painted as being the ultimate paradise. There is no suffering, pain or misery. This is the home of God the Creator, a place where the streets are paved with gold and angels sing while playing harps. It is the ideal concept of Utopia. Hell, on the other hand, is often depicted as being a fiery pit where tormented souls must relive their tortured lives throughout eternity while being forced to do Mephisto's will.

Another setting used is Faust's den. The room is described as being Gothic and dark, filled with relics and furniture handed down from Faust's ancestors. It serves as Faust's office and study at the university.

The main part of the story takes place in various parts of Germany. However, there are few specific references to landmarks and places aside from the Harz Mountains, Leipzig, Elend, and Schierke.

Language and Meaning

The original version of Faust was written in Goethe's native German. In the introduction, Kaufmann discusses the issues that have come about due to faulty translations or through the editorializing of the translators. Also, the translations from German into English and other languages have often wrecked the beauty of the prose, creating a loss of context, syntax, and meter.

To be true to the original work, Kaufmann has paired the English version with the original prose written in German. In the eyes of most scholars it is almost pointless to read Faust in any other language but German. The translators often tend to insert unnecessary words into the prose which causes damage to the flow and meter of the work. The addition of words like "thee" and "thou" also makes the text sound archaic in places, and the addition of the unnecessary words makes the text harder to read for the average person.

There are some places in which the translations are notably faulty. For example, the text seems to be modernized by the use of contractions, something which were not and are not used in most languages aside from English.

Another thing that may confuse readers is the use of multiple names for one character. The most notable example of this is Goethe's use of the name Margaret for the peasant girl while Faust calls the same girl Gretchen.

Over all, the language can be a bit daunting for those unaccustomed to reading prose, particularly that written in the sixteenth century.


Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is a book of fiction written in prose. Faust is considered to be one of the best books in English literature.

The book is comprised of 503 pages in total. However less than half contain the English translation of Goethe's prose.

The first sixty-two pages of the book are notes and important information written by noted German scholar and translator Walter Kaufmann. Kaufmann had a long and illustrious career of translating German texts, particularly those written by Friedrich Nietzsche. Kaufmann compares Goethe's work to Nietzsche as well as to other famous works in literature, such as Oedipus. The background on Goethe, the historical Faust, and the format and history of the tragedy are crucial to understanding the work. It is also valuable to know which acts and scenes have been edited or omitted entirely.

Kaufmann has included the original German text side by side with the English translation, which doubles the number of pages in the book. Only sections of The Second Part of The Tragedy are included and the book does not present Goethe's synopsis of the previous work written many years earlier.

The balance of the book is broken into 5 sections. They are: Dedication, Prelude in the Theatre, Prologue in Heaven, The First Part of the Tragedy, and The Second Part of The Tragedy.

The Dedication is written in English only and is comprised of three pages.

Prelude in the Theatre appears in German and English. The total number of pages including both languages is thirteen pages in length.

Prologue in Heaven appears in German and English. The total number of pages including both languages is nine pages in length.

The First Part of the Tragedy appears in German and English. The total number of pages including both languages is 328 pages in length.

The Second Part of The Tragedy appears in German and English. The total number of pages including both languages is eighty-one pages in length.

The average length of the sections is eighty-four pages.

This section contains 995 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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