Faust Themes

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.
This section contains 697 words
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Soul

One of the main themes in Goethe's Faust is the soul. Faust trades his soul to have all of his wishes granted by Mephisto.

The soul is the ultimate prize for both the Lord and Mephisto. Early in the story, during Prelude in Heaven, the Lord and Mephisto make a bet regarding Faust's soul. The Lord believes that Faust can be saved until his dying breath but worries that Faust has corrupted his soul with his fascination and practice with the black arts. Mephisto says it will be easy to sway Faust and turn him away from the Lord. If Mephisto is right, he will take possession of Faust's soul and take it to Hell, where Faust will serve as an eternal slave.

In the story it is possible to interchange "soul" with "spirit". The soul is the part of a person that continues to exist after death and the nature of the soul determines if the person's soul will ascend into Heaven to enjoy the Kingdom of the Lord or if it will be cast into Hell to bear the tortures rendered by Mephistopheles.

There is a question regarding salvation at hand. Is it possible for a soul to be corrupt and still make it into Heaven? The Lord says repentance before death can save a soul. Mephistopheles believes that a soul once corrupted will not repent and cannot be so easily cleansed.

Heaven and Hell

One of the main themes in Goethe's Faust is Heaven and Hell. Goethe paints a clear picture of the concept of each but touches only lightly on the creation of Hell after Mephisto is cast out of Heaven.

Heaven and Hell 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.

The Prelude in Heaven details the deal made between the Lord and Mephistopheles. At the time Heaven is the home of the Heavenly Host and all related entities including the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. At this point Mephistopheles is still one of the Lord's servants - he has not yet been cast out of Heaven. However, if Mephisto succeeds in capturing the souls then he will take them to a place where they will wallow in misery for eternity. This place will be Hell.

Magic

Faust has spent many years studying various intellectual pursuits from jurisprudence to science, medicine, philosophy and theology. Faust is also a master of the Black Arts. The Black Arts is a collective name for various types of magic that are not acceptable by the Holy Church or its tenets. It is thought to be wicked to perform any kind of magic from divination to spell casting, both of which are skills Faust possesses. Faust is also skilled at alchemy.

At the beginning of the story Faust is teaching the Black Arts at a university for boys. There are other subjects taught at the school as well but Faust is seen as being one of the most talented and revered professors at the school and in all of Germany if not the world.

Despite Faust's gift with magic there are many things that he cannot create or manifest. For example, Faust does have the power to summon Mephisto who is technically his master. However, Faust lacks the power to force Mephisto to stay or do his will. Faust does believe that he has godlike qualities and has more powers than Mephisto, something that is clearly not true.

In addition to Faust's use of magic, Goethe introduces a witch that will give Faust a necessary potion to make his desires become a reality.

This section contains 697 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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