Faust (Parts 1 and 2) | Study Guide


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Course Hero, "Faust (Parts 1 and 2) Study Guide," July 20, 2017, accessed August 15, 2022, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Faust-Parts-1-and-2/.

Faust (Parts 1 and 2) | Symbols


Places of Scholarship

Both Faust's study and Wagner's laboratory are places full of books and lab equipment. They symbolize the scholarship that Faust leaves behind and Wagner clings to. They may contain the trappings of learning, but they are devoid of experience. Consequently, they are both prisons for the men who inhabit them. In Part 1, Scene 1, Faust says this of his study, "Am I still stuck here in this dismal prison?/... Call this a world?" It is not until he leaves his study and goes out into the world that he will begin to move toward wisdom and fulfillment.


Nature in Faust is in strong contrast to the stuffy and dimly lit prison of Faust's study or Wagner's lab. Nature is sun-drenched meadows, rugged mountains, and rolling seas. From the beginning, nature represents freedom and redemption. In Part 1, Scene 2, Faust tells Wagner being out in nature "is the people's true heaven ... Here I am human, here I can be free!" He finds the same affirmation in Part 1, Scene 14. Interestingly, Mephistopheles never approves of Faust's love of nature. Here he calls it "mooning about," and later, in Part 2, Act 4, Scene 1, he plays down the beauty of the mountains, preferring talk about how they were once "Hell's old floor" and were thrown up by geological forces. But in the final scene in the play, Faust's soul is once more returned to the natural beauty of the mountains. Nature is the setting in which spiritual humans (the hermits) and penitent souls prepare for Heaven.


Again and again in Faust, it is women who shrink back from Mephistopheles. Gretchen always feels uneasy around him and finally, in Part 1, Scene 25, recognizes that he would steal her soul if she let him. Helen, too, senses something wrong in a disguised Mephistopheles. And Baucis feels there is something wrong with Faust's reclamation project, that it is tainted with evil, although she doesn't pinpoint Mephistopheles's role in it. In the final scene, it is Gretchen who will show Faust the way to Heaven, and it is the Mater Gloriosa—the Virgin Mary—who tells her how to do it. Women are symbols of the good, the divine, and this is reinforced in the last two lines of the play: "Woman eternally/Shows us the road."

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