Every piece of literature which alludes to the foolishness, audacity, and perhaps, sheer naivety of the age-old play that is love, in its passions, pursuit, and myriad complex jubilations and devastations, is bound to appeal to at least one individual or the other. Humanity is inherently blessed or plagued by this encompassing sentiment, however fraught with woes and literary tremors it may appear to be, which is why poems, short stories, novels, and other literary works of fiction, in the flamboyant manner by which it recounts aspects of humanity, serve as fitting stages or platforms for the overplayed drama that is love.
The German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe plays the aforementioned persuasion well, particularly in what many regard as a semi-autobiographical novel entitled, “The Sorrows of Young Werther” (1774). While the novel can be easily and automatically categorized as a ‘romantic’ piece of literary fiction based on the instance that it was published during the height of the Romantic period that is 18th century western Europe, it is also identified as such because it encompasses and reflects the spirit of the said era.
“The Sorrows of Young Werther” constitutes, much like the title already aptly connotes, the pains of a young man named Werther, as he personally recounts the perennial tragedy of unrequited love, through a series of letters addressed to his friend Wilhelm. Werther is impassioned and consumed by attraction to a woman who doesn’t reciprocate his affections, much less pay attention to him, and who happens to be engaged to one of his friends. Werther culminates his long drawn poetic divulgings, outcries, and “sorrows” in the act of suicide.
For most people, the concluding drama and tragedy which exists in Goethe’s novel is entirely plausible, or “realistic,” given that it was fueled by the obsessive nature of attraction. Goethe affords readers a perspective of an attraction, of a sentiment, of a proclaimed ‘love’ that may be juvenile and naive, but is far from healthy or harmless. It affirms and encompasses every romanticized idea or cliche of love as an immense force far greater than any individual; all-consuming and agonizing, especially – as in young Werther’s case – when it isn’t reciprocated.
It also highlights the great lengths people rise or turn to for the sake of love, however convoluted, or different, and maybe even delusional, the form it takes may appear to be. These aforementioned “great lengths” aren’t always necessarily a good thing, in Werther’s case for instance, it meant death. It meant killing the pain, meant dying in flesh and bones in the same manner he already had inside. It meant consummating the proverbial death which he was only able to hold on to for so long.
It may be achingly juvenile, and infinitely naive, but it is the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s take and translation of love, in its purest and unabashedly raw form; devoid of necessary standards, strictures and responsibilities of “reasonable love. ” One which lives, and as already apparent, dies for the sole purpose of the said circus or charade of an emotion; so much so that it ascribes the instance of death, and particularly of suicide, as a course of action or undertaking which is suddenly deemed romantic, noble, or at the very least acceptable, where the passions of attraction and the agony of love is concerned.
While this may appear utterly heartbreaking and romantic on the leaves of a paperback book, I have reason to believe that it should be limited to the said confines, and not translate to “the real world. ” While most readers, and myself, may sympathize with Werther’s plight, agony, and his aptly titled ‘sorrows,’ I have reason to believe that love can also manifest in less explosive and immensely imposing ways.
I believe that it exists and abounds throughout the greater part of humanity and the world we live in, despite what hideousness and ugliness which surrounds the current state of our country and the rest of the world may connote. It exists in something as mundane as an e-mail or phone call, a free car ride, to seeming hallmark or kodak moments as the flying of kites, a little league team at play, a shared sandwich; and to the familiar trivialities but authentic and wholly heart-warming dependability of broad shoulders, thin lips, welcoming cheeks, and the warmth of an embrace.
Love exists in more than one definition and translates in varying degrees and circumstances, an individual shouldn’t decide to end his or her life because of a romanticized version of it. People should live through and for love, not die for it. As for sorrow, people should endure and keep every exquisite agony, because ultimately and essentially, sorrows affirm our humanity, and our capacity to love.
Von Goethe, Johann Wolfgang. (2006) The Sorrows Of Young Werther. Mondial.