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The hero that never was In Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe builds a dramatic poem
around the strengths and weaknesses of a man who under a personalized definition of a
hero fails miserably. A hero is someone that humanity models themselves and their
actions after, someone who can be revered by the masses as an individual of great
morality and strength, a man or woman that never sacrifices his beliefs under adversity.
Therefore, through his immoral actions and his unwillingness to respect others rights and
privileges, Faust is determined to be a man of un heroic proportions. It is seen early in the
poem, that Faust has very strong beliefs and a tight moral code that is deeply rooted in his
quest for knowledge. Sitting in his den, Faust describes his areas of instruction, "I have,
alas, studied philosophy, jurisprudence and medicine, too, and, worst of all, theology with
keen endeavor, through and through..." It is obvious that through his studies he has
valued deep and critical thinking, however with the help of Mephisto, he would disregard
his values and pursue the pleasures of the flesh. Faust's impending downward spiral
reveals the greed that both Mephisto and Faust share. Mephisto's greed is evident in the
hope that he will overcome Faust's morality and thus be victorious in his wager with God;
also because he is the devil and that is what he does. For Faust, greed emerges because of
his desire to attain physical pleasures and therefore become whole in mind, body and
spirit. Faust's goal to become the Überminche is an understandable desire, however, the
means at which he strives for those ends are irresponsible and unjust. It is through this
greed that Faust with the help of Mephisto exploit others in the pursuit of Faust's earthly
desires. Enter innocent Gretchen, a poor lower class young woman who experiences the
impossible, love. Under Mephisto's magical potion, Faust becomes intoxicated with
passion and controlled by his hormones. It is under this spell that he approaches the
"beautiful" Gretchen, however, the feeling of passion is not mutual between the two.
Faust realizes then, that his simple looks and personality will not attract Gretchen, rather
Faust must deceive and manipulate this woman in order to possess her. Thus, Faust turns
to Mephisto for help in his quest for Gretchen, "Get me that girl, and don't ask
why?"(257) Mephisto replies with a quote that establishes the nature at which Faust will
pursue Gretchen with, "We'd waste our time storming and running; we have to have
recourse to cunning."(261) It is from this point in the story that Faust declines into a state
of immorality and irresponsibility; a level he will remain at for the majority of the story.
Faust's immorality emerges from the idealization that despite harming others, there are
not any consequences to his actions. The harm in combining Faust and Mephisto is that
their actions become dangerous and deadly. Faust becomes an unstoppable, Napoleonic
figure, when his irresponsibility is mixed with Mephisto's lethal power. Gretchen is
Faust's first victim, before her death she was responsible for three deaths; ultimately she
is imprisoned because of Faust's influence upon her. Faust's desire for progress and
reformation in society led to the deaths of his second set of victims, an elderly couple.
Thus, Mephisto burns them out, a result that Faust had not asked for specifically, but an
action which served the purpose and was almost as detrimental as what Faust had
intended for them, to move them out of their home. This action against the elderly is
analogous to any other parts of the story in which Faust commits an illegal or immoral act
to heighten himself in his own eyes. It is obvious then that Faust is a criminal, a man who
abuses the rights of others to gain spiritual and financial freedom for himself. A criminal
is a personn that should neither be rewarded or idealized for his actions against society.
The only endeavor that Faust does in order to save himself, is to feel apologetic and
remorseful for his immoral and self-serving actions, and is therefore allowed into heaven,
an ending to the story which is unreal and unbelievable. Heaven should be a place where
men and women who are virtuous and contain traits such as honesty, morality and
decency should reside to. Rather, Goethe poetically sends a man whose indirectly
murdered, is dishonest and greedy to such a wondrous and magical location only because
he admits that what he did was wrong. Attaining passage into heaven is the only
accomplishment that Faust makes in order to attain a heroes status. Even this final
accomplishment is questionable, because God would not allow a man so unworthy to
accompany people who have such a high moral standard and irrefutable grace. Faust
then, neither falls under the classical definition of a hero except that he was, "...favored
by the gods" and he does not fit into my personal definition of a hero. For Faust is not
someone whose actions should be followed, he sacrificed his beliefs under adversity and
most importantly; he destroyed anyone's life if it conflicted to any aspect of his plan for
superiority. Faust then, may be considered the greatest un hero to have ever attain
passage into heaven.