Thus Spoke Zarathustra | Study Guide

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

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Thus Spoke Zarathustra | Quotes


I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome.

Zarathustra, Part 1, Zarathustra's Prologue

The very heart of the text is this idea of "becoming." It is overcoming, evolving, and exceeding the limits of what man currently is. This is the crux of Zarathustra's message (and Nietzsche's essay).


One repays a teacher badly if one always remains nothing but a pupil.

Zarathustra, Part 1, Chapter 22

Zarathustra's teaching is a result of introspection, questioning, and rejecting authority. The conundrum of being his pupil is that in following him, his pupils are not following his teachings. To accept the idea he is presenting is to reject his authority—to strike out on one's own. He cautions his pupils against revering him because this makes them subjects.


Once one said God when one looked upon distant seas; but now I have taught you to say: overman.

Zarathustra, Part 2, Chapter 24

Part of evolving into this new sort of being—the overman—is to reject external structures: religious, governmental, academic. One ought to strive toward the birth of this new stage of humanity: Übermenschen (overmen).


He who has knowledge walks among men as among animals.

Zarathustra, Part 2, Chapter 25

Those who have gained knowledge or wisdom realize they are superior to men the way men are superior to animals. Mere men are as animals—inferior creatures.


Never yet has there been an overman.

Zarathustra, Part 2, Chapter 26

This quote is significant in that there are those who claim to have already reached the status of overman, but according to Zarathustra, the presence of such an overman has not yet reached fruition. It is a goal, not a current state.


That is your whole will, you who are wisest: a will to power—when you speak of good and evil too, and of valuations.

Zarathustra, Part 2, Chapter 34

This concept of will, determination, and striving for power and autonomy is mistakenly assigned as a justification for tyranny.

However, what Nietzsche argues for is the need to become the master of one's self. To become an overman is to reject external authority. It follows logically that a true overman would not then seek power over others because this would halt their evolution.


This word I shall add for those who overthrow statues: nothing is more foolish than casting salt into the sea and statues into the mud.

Zarathustra, Part 2, Chapter 40

The toppling of government is a waste of time and energy. What Zarathustra argues for is the individual. The true individual isn't engaged in these things, but rather pursuing the path to overcoming.


Must not whatever can happen have happened, have been done, have passed by before?

Zarathustra, Part 3, Chapter 46

"Eternal recurrence" is Nietzsche's argument that things repeat infinitely. It also occurs in his other works, such as Gay Science (1882).


He is a breaker, they call him lawbreaker. For the good are unable to create; they are always the beginning of the end.

Zarathustra, Part 3, Chapter 56

To create a new type of man, the old structures must be broken. Zarathustra is breaking down old ideas. In order for his new concept to become acceptable to men and in order for them to come to terms with the idea of seeking truth, they must overcome the old ideas that keep them chained.


For this old god lives no more: he is thoroughly dead.

Zarathustra, Part 4, Chapter 66

This is quoted, misquoted, and used as justification for any number of things. However, the idea of throwing off religion is simply part of the moral nihilism of Nietzschean philosophy. If one is a follower—of a faith or a government—the pursuit of individualism is stunted.


You may indeed all be higher men ... but for me you are not high and strong enough.

Zarathustra, Part 4, Chapter 71

Zarathustra's admission here is that the men he has found are evolved. They are intelligent and complex in ways the average man is not. However, this is not the same as being overmen. These are men in progress.


You are mere bridges: may men higher than you stride over you.

Zarathustra, Part 4, Chapter 71

There has not yet been an overman. Those who are closer to reaching this status are simply a few steps closer to the next stage of evolution.


Brave is he who knows fear but conquers fear, who sees the abyss, but with pride.

Zarathustra, Part 4, Chapter 73

Fear and laziness are humanity's greatest flaws according to Nietzsche, and their opposition is the "will to power." To overcome fear, one must strive. Overcoming is how one moves closer to becoming the overman.


Beyond good and evil is your kingdom.

Zarathustra, Part 4, Chapter 77

The limitations of the concepts of "good" and "evil" hamper the evolution of the Nietzschean overman. The "kingdom" of overmen is a world beyond human understanding.


Well then, they still sleep, these higher men, while I am awake: these are not my proper companions.

Zarathustra, Part 4, Chapter 80

Zarathustra is disappointed. He has left his hermitage and tried to bring the wisdom he attained in the mountains to men, but the sort of men he sought (the overmen) are not yet "awake." Zarathustra is not presuming to be an overman, but he is closer to this state than mere men. Thus, the men he is surrounded by are not his equals.

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