Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
Sorrows of Young Werther: Introduction
Sorrows of Young Werther: Plot Summary
Sorrows of Young Werther: Detailed Summary & Analysis
Sorrows of Young Werther: Themes
Sorrows of Young Werther: Quotes
Sorrows of Young Werther: Characters
Sorrows of Young Werther: Symbols
Sorrows of Young Werther: Theme Wheel
Brief Biography of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Historical Context of The Sorrows of Young Werther
Other Books Related to The Sorrows of Young Werther
- Full Title: The Sorrows of Young Werther
- When Written: 1774
- Where Written: Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany
- When Published: 1774
- Literary Period: Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress)
- Genre: Epistolary Novel, Confessional Literature, Autobiographical Novel, Bildungsroman
- Setting: Wahlheim (a fictional town based on Wetzlar, Germany), and its surrounding countryside.
- Climax: Upon realizing that he and Lotte will never see one another again, Werther returns to his home and shoots himself.
- Antagonist: While the novel has no traditional antagonist, Werther struggles against the expectation that he behave rationally instead of emotionally, ultimately succumbing to it.
- Point of View: The bulk of the novel is told through letters (which are written in the first-person), though a third-person narrator tells the story at the end.
Extra Credit for The Sorrows of Young Werther
Cottage industries. The Sorrows of Young Werther was one of the first books to become so celebrated that it inspired tourism. An innkeeper in the town that inspired the book created a dramatic gravesite and passed it off as Werther’s, while a contemporary guidebook also directed sightseers to the tree under which Werner and Lotte once sat. Visitors would often wear the same iconic clothes attributed to Werther. In that way, the book was like the Harry Potter of its age!
Plague of Suicides. A rumor persists that The Sorrows of Young Werther inspired a spate of suicides and suicide attempts in the name of young love. While there seems to be little evidence of this, the thought that the novel recommended suicide was enough for it to be banned in Leipzig, the town that initially published it.