Goethe-Exposé engl. COPYRIGHT Helmar Kloss 2016 The title “Die Leiden des jungen Goethe” (“The sufferings of young Goethe”), corresponds to that of the first romance of Goethe “Die Leiden des jungen Werther” (“The sufferings of young Werther”), first published in 1774. The author’s purpose was to find out how far the romance is based on problems young Goethe had suffered before writing it, of what kind these problems have been and where they had come from.
The study is restricted to the period before 1775, the year Goethe went to Weimar.
But the author is not primarily interested in the personality of Goethe and some of the works created before he went to Weimar. He aims at using one of the best documented lifes – perhaps even the best documented – for a kind of case study for psychological purposes. The example of Goethe serves to find out circumstances and mechanisms by which human personalities are formed.
This formation results from processes which are still ignored except in cases of more or less great catastrophes for which usual explanations are not satisfactory. So, the intention of the author is to portray Goethe's personality and not to supply a biographical or a literary study, although as a sort of by product he offers some interesting results of that kind.
Human personalities are formed in the family they are born into. Most important are the first four or five years of life. The persons forming this family, their character and behaviour are of utmost importance. Therefore, in part 1 of the study the characters of Goethe's father and mother are portrayed. The following description of Goethe's childhood and youth includes an analysis of the character of his sister Cornelia, born when Wolfgang had 15 month of age, and what is known about his brother Jakob, who has died at the age of six when Wolfgang was nine years old, trying to find out what influence these siblings have had on the development of Goethe's character.
Part 2 begins with a survey of the romance about the unhappy love and the seemingly tragic fate of young Werther. The character of the protagonist is analyzed as if it were a real person. Thereafter, all girls and ladies are scrutinized with which young Goethe has had relations before he wrote his romance to find out when and where he has made the experiences that form the basis of the romance and which of the young ladies has been the one that served as model for Werther's object of adoration, the girl called "Lotte". Next topic is the scrutiny of Goethe's description of his motives, the circumstances under which the idea had formed to write the romance and the public resonance it got. From the informations gathered until then most important traits of Goethe's character are elaborated and contrasted with Werther's character to get at an unproven but highly probable hypothesis about the real facts that had made young Goethe suffer.
The third and last part tries to test the correctness of the proposed explanation by scrutinizing some other literary works written before Goethe's departure to Weimar. Then, knowing Goethe's character, the relations to mother, father and sister are revisited.
Finally, the results concerning the three disciplines the author is interested in - study of literature, psychology and sociology - are summed up. To cite from the latter: "Not least of all, I have been interested to raise the question how to induce homo sapiens to face the problems that result from his disposition - especially the problem I named after Cain - and to look for solutions instead of continuing to live in dull and foolish unconsciousness, limping blind through history, - Freud and his collaborators and followers notwithstanding. Because analogous to the participation of elder women in practising circumcision of the clitoris of young girls in some african tribes everywhere aggressions and sufferings are passed from one generation to the next in a process I have called "trauma-tradition". The mechanisms I have elaborated thanks to the informations I have got about young Goethe and called "syndrome of consequences from loss" (Verlustfolgensyndrom) are only some examples among many we should find out and try to neutralize, so that humanity may make moral progresses too and allow the majority of men to live content and in peace."
The annex of the book is made of a list of all letters forming the "Werther"-romance, a table of relevant events in the era concerned, a lot of notes and translations, bibliography and a detailed index. To allow readers to read up on the quotations from "Dichtung und Wahrheit", the book has been put into the internet with the paging of the edition used by the author; look at www.inform-verlag.de/97.andere Texte/Dichtung und Wahrheit