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2012 Group Reads - Archives > Faust - Part I ~ Scene III: The Study

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message 1: by Silver (new)

Silver Enter Mephistopheles .

There are a couple of things which first struck out at me in reading this section.

When Faust first lays eyes upon Mephistopheles , he addresses him by the many names of which he is known and in so doing acknowledges that he is known to be a Liar.

This is something that I think is always a bit ironic in making deals with the Devil, there is an awareness that the one with whom you are dealing with is a known liar, and deceiver, and yet you still enter into a contract in which you have some expectation that they will uphold their end of the deal. There does seem to be some lacking in common sense in this way of thinking. For the moment one is recognized as a liar, how can anything else they say from that point be believed?

The other thing that struck me, is when Mephistopheles frankly stated that he was an agent of Evil and that evil was his intention. I would have that he might have used a more subtle and manipulative approach.


message 2: by Christopher (new)

Christopher | 1 comments Interesting thoughts and I agree. The Devil was very cunning when it came to his deception of Eve. However, Jesus knew exactly what he was and what he was all about, but Satan persisted to try in the Temptations.


message 3: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) I saw a cute little black poodle at the mall yesterday, and immediately turned to the other side of the sidewalk.

"For Ruin begins by fawning on a man in a friendly way [as Cerberus does to those arriving at the gates of Hades], and leads him astray into her net, from which it is impossible for a mortal to escape and flee."
-- Aeschylus in Persians


message 4: by Nemo (last edited Sep 11, 2012 02:36PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Silver wrote: "There does seem to be some lacking in common sense in this way of thinking. For the moment one is recognized as a liar, how can anything else they say from that point be believed?"

Just by some sort of coincidence, I watched "Quantum of Solace" yesterday, and there was a line that fits here, "If we refused to do business with villains, we'd have almost no one to trade with."

Faust perhaps knew deep down that he and Mephistopheles were very much alike, though he didn't admit it to himself, not yet, at least.


message 5: by Silver (new)

Silver Christopher wrote: "Interesting thoughts and I agree. The Devil was very cunning when it came to his deception of Eve. However, Jesus knew exactly what he was and what he was all about, but Satan persisted to try in t..."

Funny you should mention that. I was going to bring this up later, but it is not really a spoiler to the story, so since it is relevant I will say it now. There was a point a little later one while I was reading in which Mephistopheles' temptation of Faust had actually reminded me of the Last Temptation of Christ.


message 6: by Hedi (new)

Hedi | 960 comments I thought it was interesting how Faust starts with the Bible he wants to translate and somehow already stumbles over the first words and their meanings:
Word, sense, power, deed

Then he turns to magic again, by the spell he uses and the ghosts you hear. And then Mephistopheles appears.

It seems that he is trying to focus on the biblical part, which is commonly expected in the 16th century, but cannot do that and turns to the ghosts and in the end to the most evil of all, the devil.

You mentioned the contract with the devil. I found it interesting that Mephistpheles is not the one bringing up a possible deal between them. It is Faust himself who alludes to it. So in the end whatever deal you get into, it was your own decision. It is, as was mentioned, strange though that despite knowing that you enter into something with someone you cannot trust, you still do that, even without force, rather on the contrary by your own decision.

I was wondering whether Faust already has a possible contract in mind at this point or whether it is his curiosity and eagerness to understand everything to make him think of that. We know that he is a very well educated man, so why would he think of the possibility of doing such a thing?


message 7: by Silver (new)

Silver Hedi wrote: "I was wondering whether Faust already has a possible contract in mind at this point or whether it is his curiosity and eagerness to understand everything to make him think of that. We know that he is a very well educated man, so why would he think of the possibility of doing such a thing? .."

Well we know from the beginning, when we first encounter Faust, and he catches a glimpse of the spirit which than vanishes, and through his conversations with Wagner, that he is discontent, and does already have the idea of turning toward the supernatural in mind.

So in spite of the fact that he already denounces Mephistopheles as a liar, and Mephistopheles freely admits to his evil intent, it is an opportunity that Faust cannot bring himself to let slip through the fingers, the way the former spirits have.


message 8: by Nemo (last edited Sep 12, 2012 04:25PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) The contract reminds me of Pascal's wager. Both are "rational" from their individual perspective:

The logic of Faust's contract:
1. He has to choose to either accept or reject the Devil's contract. There is no third option.
2. Without the contract, he gains nothing. He will die as a decrepit old man, having discovered that he has not lived.
3. With the contract, he might gain everything he desires in this world. What comes next, he doesn't want to know and doesn't care.

The logic of Pascal's wager:
1. There are two probabilities: God exists or He doesn't. You have to choose between belief or unbelief. There is no third option.
2. In the case that God exists: If you choose to believe in Him, you gain everything; if you don't, you lose everything.
3. In the case that God doesn't exist, whether you choose to believe or not doesn't make much difference.


message 9: by Melanie (new)

Melanie | 48 comments I have unfortunately not had time to start reading Faust, but liked it very much when I read it 10 years ago and do remember some things :) Maybe I just like these desperate protagonists like Faust and Hesse’s Steppenwolf who feel like strangers to society and the world of everyday. The protagonists of these two books are quite similar in some respects. Haller also believes himself to be of two natures (one high, spiritual nature, and one low, animalistic nature), and is never content with either nature. Like Faust, he finds someone who introduces him to the wordly pleasures of life. She also takes him to a "magic theatre", a place where he experiences the fantasies that exist in his mind.

To me Faust is someone that is desperately looking for real happiness, so much so, that he takes the risks of a pact with the devil. All his knowledge and success do not provide him with really happy moments – or he has not learned to recognize and savour them. All he asks from Mephisto is to give him a moment to which he would like to say: “Stay a while, you are so beautiful”. He feels that there must be something more to life than what can be discovered by science. As his worldly researches have not been able to satisfy him, his only option is to refer to supernatural ways which both the spirit and Mephisto represent, and to hope that they will reveal new secrets. He is therefore susceptible to the dubious ways Mephisto can offer of finding happiness, and Mephisto does not even have to convince him. I also found the contrast between the two scientists Faust and Wagner interesting. For Faust, Wagner is a representative of a limited kind of science and he feels disturbed whenever he appears. Wagner as Faust’s counterpart is a cold, rational scientist, that only looks into his books and does research in small steps. Faust on the other hand is kind of an “all or nothing”-scientist that is not satisfied until he understands the world and its sense. He is much more emotional, follows his intuition and is looking for more than mere knowledge, for a purpose in life.


message 10: by Wei Lin (new)

Wei Lin (weilinteo) For me, Faust represents a man who is knowledgeable and bored. He has reached a point where there is scarcely any written knowledge that he is unaware of. In this way, I feel that it is understandable that he engage in the contract with Mephistopheles merely because it is going to be a new knowledge that would go beyond his book knowledge. It will satisfy both his "boredom" and pursue something beyond the limits...


message 11: by Hedi (last edited Sep 18, 2012 01:27PM) (new)

Hedi | 960 comments Silver wrote: "Hedi wrote: "I was wondering whether Faust already has a possible contract in mind at this point or whether it is his curiosity and eagerness to understand everything to make him think of that. We ..."

Sorry, I am a little behind and busy with other things at work and at home at the moment.

I am aware of his discontent, a state of mind which I understand pretty well myself, and his questioning beyond the current knowledge, but would you think of making a deal with the obvious evil knowing that you will most probably be betrayed in some way or another? It is almost a sign of true desperation (the good is not able to help him with this) to take such a risk, which is maybe on the one hand courageous, but on the other hand might be very imprudent (at least in the eyes of an outsider, to Faust himself there might be nothing worse than his current situation).


message 12: by Silver (new)

Silver Yes I agree I think it is an act of complete desperation, and perhaps he is left to feel he has no where else to go and the good has nothing really to offer him.

As others have been mentioned before. In spite of his awareness of the risk he is taking and just what and who he is dealing with, it is enticing because it presents himself with something new, something untapped, a once in a lifetime experience of which he may never have the opportunity to have again.

So even though there lies the potential for disaster and he is going into it with his eyes wide open, it is better the anything else he has in his life now, and the finding out what might happen, for good or ill would be preferable for the regret of always wondering what may have happened if he refused this opportunity.


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