The Sorrows of Young Werther as an Epistolary Novel

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The Sorrows of Young Werther is not a conventional love story between two people, it is truly a one-sided narration of events through letters sent by the hero of the story Werther to his friend Wilhelm. This genre of novels was called epistolary because it was a collection of documents or letters put together by auditors in a chronological way to dramatize the events and create a connection between the characters of the novel and the reader.

What was unconventional about this novel is that the story narrates the letters from Werther and without reading any letters from Wilhelm. It is strange that the editor did not include any letter correspondence from Wilhelm, where it could be Werther destroyed those letters before he committed suicide.

The love story of The Sorrow of a Young Werther begins when Werther meets Lotte in June 1771. He moved to a village in Germany where he wanted to settle. He was invited to Duke’s land steward where he met Charlotte or Lotte, the steward’s oldest daughter. He was fascinated by her beauty and her dress and she represented the feminine mother figurine to him while she was taking care of her siblings. He was devastated to find out that she was engaged to Albert. Werther met Albert in July 1771 and he was fascinated by his character and oddly, they became friends instead of foes.

Werther was tormented by the idea of loving Lotte but she was engaged to Albert that he befriended him and had a great respect for him. After having a debate with Albert about the idea of suicide and the insistence of Lotte to not be with him, he decided to leave the village and take a job at the court. Albert decided to leave his job at the court after a humiliating experience and he wanted to go back to Lotte to see her, he found out that she married Albert but that didn’t stop him from seeing her.

When he confronted her with his feelings and kissed her, she told him to leave and they should not see each other anymore. Werther decided to end his life and sent Albert a letter saying” Lend me your pistols … for my journey”. Werther killed himself after writing his last letter Lotte where he mentioned that he died wearing his clothes that she touched.

The beginning of the story would make you feel that it is going to be a Romeo and Juliette love, but it was actually a misery of Werther throughout the novel since Lotte did not love him back and married Albert. Werther’s actions and thoughts were far from the Enlightenment period that he was living in. He did not embrace the reason and logic throughout his life. Instead he believed that emotions and feelings are the freedom for people. He symbolized this freedom through nature where he refers to it as a Capital N in the novel to give a more importance and emphasis, and to show how much he values it.

There are a lot of references to nature in the book. Werther used nature to express his inner emotions and feelings towards Lotte. Werther admired nature and he often used to sit and enjoy himself looking at the natural beauty of the world. For him nature represents purity and freedom. It represents his love for Lotte that is untouchable and chain free. But when he thinks about the rules, laws and society that will force him to be away from Lotte, he gets depressed and he doesn’t want to believe or think about it. For him, people break free from those rules when they explore their inner emotions and let go, even if it leads to suicide which he committed at the end of the novel.

This novel illustrates Werther’s life and the perfect pairing to this story is how the seasons roll in a single year. The life cycle of the novel is about a year and a half that included dramatic and hard turns in Werther’s life. Spring and summer provide a new chance for Werther to venture into a romantic relationship so he falls in love with Lotte in early summer of 1771. Fast forward a year in the early 1772, after taking a job in the courts and having a humiliating accident, Werther hoped to rejuvenate himself by visiting the prince’s estate. Unfortunately, he got bored with the prince’s entertainment and when summer came he decided to travel back to Lotte in hopes to renew his old passion.

Werther had to experience two autumns in the life span of the story, the first time when he fell in love with Lotte and found out that she already had a fiance called Albert. His sorrows did not end there, he befriended Albert and had the utmost respect towards him, putting him in a love triangle situation where he was on the losing side. The second autumn Werther experienced is when he went back to Lotte’s town to revive his old passions and confronted Lotte with his love and kissed her to feel her warmth but he got rejected by her and his heart was broken.

In the end, Werther experienced the coldness of winter after being rejected by Lotte. He felt cold, dark and lifeless in the winter of 1772. He took his own life as he couldn’t stand the thought of not being able to be with Lotte. He was struggling with love for some long time which led to serious mental health and depression.


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The Sorrows of Young Werther as an Epistolary Novel. (2021, Jun 20). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-sorrows-of-young-werther-as-an-epistolary-novel/

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