Implications of Christian Ideology in Goethes Faus Essay

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Implications of Christian Ideology in Goethes Faust

In Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe builds a dramatic poem around the basis of human
strengths and weaknesses, two traits exemplified by Goethe through his main character,
Johann Faust. Throughout his life, Faust becomes knowledgeable in math, science, and the
Holy Scripture, yet desires to find happiness as a result of his persistent struggle for
power. Faust seeks not power through knowledge, but power resultant from knowledge
achieved through transcendence. Infinitely, it is this desire that is the downfall of
Faust; he sacrifices his beliefs and morals to his pursuit of ultimate knowledge, and, in
doing so, he becomes detached from reality. Through his ignorance of the surrounding
humanity, Faust becomes obliterated by emptiness. During the time period of the poem’s
setting, Christians and society considered this type of greedy pursuit to be immoral and
unjust, and thus, many Christian elements play key roles in Goethe’s interpretation of the
legendary figure. Through allusions to religious archetypes, along with symbolic
Christian principles, the “tragedy” of Faust shows the lifelong struggle of a man who
longs for transcendence and the world, yet, remains imprisoned by his own mind.

Throughout Faust, basic elements of the Christian faith are seen within its composition.
In Christianity, the number three is considered to be a harmony with the Divine, and its
use throughout the play helps to create the religious overtone. The most basic of
Christian fundamentals, the Trinity, shows the existence of God embodied in three persons:
God the father, God the son, and God the Holy Spirit. In the scene in the study, it is
the Trinity that lets Mephistopheles into the study, but will not let him leave. The
physical representation of God traps the Devil into the room, and as a result, forces him
to trick Faust in order to leave. When Mephistopheles says that “Three in One, and One in
Three” is “illusion and not truth,” he is mocking the Christian doctrine of the Holy
Trinity. The belief that God can simultaneously be three people within one body is one of
the most controversial aspects of the Christian belief, and Mephistopheles delights in
pointing this idiosyncrasy out. Along the same lines, the pact made between the Devil and
Faust also shows this idea of the number three in that both sides place three stipulations
on their side of the bargain. During the same scene, Faust must invite Mephistopheles
into his study three times in order to symbolize his willingness to become involved in the
evil the spirit represents, and thus consecrate his choice of desire over religious
belief. Perhaps the reason for this is not only in mockery of the Christian perception,
but it is also a representation of three being the perfect number, because it typifies the
beginning, middle, and end.

Along the lines of this religious theme are the specific roles the characters represent.
Mephistopheles is the Devil, and this is explained during the Prologue to Heaven, at which
time the Devil bargains with God for the soul of Faust. The character of Gretchen is more
complicated, due to her sudden character change in the middle of the text. Initially, she
is portrayed as sweet and innocent, therefore paralleling to the Virgin Mary, yet, in the
later scenes, after she is corrupted by Faust’s immorality, she parallels to Eve. The
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