This is the masterpiece of the eighteenth century Romantic literature Goethe wrote when he was twenty five years old. He was likely to love it much and proud that it was largely accepted as a whole. Many were fascinated by Werther’s figure, as Lotte became an ideal woman figure in literature, who is regarded as a stereotype of the Romantic literary youth—amazingly, which, still now, remains as our common understanding. His contribution is significant in terms of such values those who don’t know this novel knows.
The theme in Werther is diverse so that we find that myriad matters are developed in a tragedy of love. An epistolary style, a monologue, the first and third person narrative, suicide, a denial of civilisation and a praise for nature, social hierarchy, a sublime woman figure, the mutable order. All of which are quite familiar to me working on the Victorian literature, also include some modern issues. Here what I want to argue is the issue of “suicide”.
Lotte, Werther loves, has already married Albert who is a respectable man as he mentions. Two of them come to have a favourable relation, but their first discord is seen in the argument of suicide.
“I cannot comprehend how a man can be so mad as to shoot himself, and the bare idea of it shocks me."
"But why should any one," said I[Werther], "in speaking of an action, venture to pronounce it mad or wise, or good or bad?... Have you carefully studied the secret motives of our actions? Do you understand—can you explain the causes which occasion them, and make them inevitable?”
Against Werther’s remark, Albert also continues, “...some actions are criminal, let them spring from whatever motives they may” and “...a man under the influence of violent passion loses all power of reflection, and is regarded as intoxicated or insane.” In terms of “madness” and “moral madness” in the nineteenth century famous debate, Werther is a latter case, that is to say, he is apt to be recognised mad, considering his sudden fit of emotion. But his figure offers the matter of moral madness as he preserves his logical mind until the end. The theme of “madness with imagination” was already handled in the eighteenth century.
In respect of Christianity, suicide is a crime induced by imagination which was restraint because of its evilness to provoke. When considering the cause of suicide or madness, should it be attributed to imagination or heredity (generally recognised at that time)? Werther should be praised in the light of the fact that it firmly doubts it again.