Book Reviews

The Sorrows of Young Werther by J.W. Goethe – Book Review

The Sorrows of Young Werther is the novel for anyone who wants to feel the endless melodramatic tension of unanswered love. This book touched the nerve of so many young people back in its day that suicide rates among young men skyrocketed. And thus, it was claimed that it was a dangerous book for those who came ill-prepared or for those suffering from the sadness of a lost lover.

            The story follows the letters of Werther, a young intellectual man, who falls in love with Lotte, a woman who has been promised to someone else. The man she is promised to, is a fine and gentle man, the kind of person where you just can’t hate him, even if you wanted to. Werther’s love stays unanswered. He tries and tries but his love is never returned. He reaches for the unreachable only to extend his arm to far, falling into the dark abyss of sorrow. In the end his love becomes so unbearable, he sees only one way out: killing himself. That way he will not be in eternal agony of not having his love returned.

            A simple story and which has been played in many other books. Though this one takes a dark turn. The feeling of utter hopelessness is utmost present in this story. You can feel the descend of Werther’s sorrow. At first, they start out as friends. But then slowly, he starts to have feelings for Lotte. At one point it just becomes too much and he has to tell her, only to figure out that she has been promised to someone else, now keeping his love for her to himself.

            Goethe is a master storyteller which he has proven many times, but this story is one of his best if not the best. Semi-autobiographical, you can really feel the emotions of the character. The endless thinking about what could be or what should have been, driving someone to insanity and the incapability to live. I can only imagine all the emo kids loving this novel.

            A classic in literature. The Sorrows of Young Werther deserves a spot in one of those ‘best of’ literature lists. The simplicity of the feeling of love, written so clear, yet open for every interpretation. This shows who the true masters are, and Goethe is one of them. There is not much else to say about this book. It is just a book which should be experienced for yourself. Draw your own interpretation. Let your own feelings guide you through the story of Werther. And may it give you support in times when it might seem there is none.

By elenchusphilosophy

Philosophy student from Ghent, Belgium. I write about what I find interesting which is about nearly anything. Though my guiding question in life is how to be a good person.

2 replies on “The Sorrows of Young Werther by J.W. Goethe – Book Review”

I’ve been reading Goethe’s essays on Art, Nature and Science over the past year and just recently began a Goethe quest into his poetry and fiction. “The Sorrows of Young Werther” broke my heart. I appreciate your review and agree that he is a master storyteller! I just translated one of his poems “Erster Berlust”(First Loss) in which I believe relates to his own personal experiences of loss and in which he relates in his story of Werther. Thank you for this post!


Goethe is still readable today. Although today many prefer english poets and culture. This is understandable, because of the trrible things that came out of Germany in modern times (Nazi-culture etc.) But don´t forget, Goethe lived in the old romantic german times, that were a lot different and much more tolerant and human than the modern.


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