The Sorrows of Young Werther

Books Symbol Icon

Books play a shifting role for Werther. When he is happy (that is, when he is with Lotte), he ignores them utterly. When he is sad, he turns to them for solace. Either way, he recognizes that he should be reading them and better attending to his studies, but he finds it difficult to do so in the face of his feelings. At the end of their friendship, Werther reads extensively to Lotte from his own translations of Ossian, and the pair descend into a fit of tears. Previously, Werther had abandoned books in Lotte’s presence. That he now picks them up again with her symbolizes that he will no longer find happiness through his love for Lotte.

Books Quotes in The Sorrows of Young Werther

The The Sorrows of Young Werther quotes below all refer to the symbol of Books. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of The Sorrows of Young Werther published in 1989.
Book 1: Jun 16, 1771 Quotes

When I was younger there was nothing I loved better than novels. God knows how good it felt to be able to sit in some corner on a Sunday and share with my whole heart in Miss Jenny's happiness and sorrows. Nor do I deny that that kind of writing still has its charms for me. But since I so rarely come by a book, it has to be one that is quite to my taste. And I like that author best who shows me my own world, conditions such as I live in myself and a story that can engage my interest and heart as much as my own domestic life does.

Related Characters: Lotte (Charlotte S.) (speaker), Werther
Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:
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Books Symbol Timeline in The Sorrows of Young Werther

The timeline below shows where the symbol Books appears in The Sorrows of Young Werther. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book One: May 4-13, 1771
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...around him ends up distracting Werther from things he used to enjoy, such as reading books and drawing. He playfully expresses concern about this to Wilhelm, yet he seems content in... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
...opens with Werther responding to Wilhelm, who has asked if he ought to forward Werther’s books to him. It’s an idea that Werther doesn’t even pretend to entertain: he no longer... (full context)
Book One: June 16, 1771
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Werther does, however, recall the books that Lotte mentions reading to her aunt. Like Werther, Lotte is an avid reader. The... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...and wanted to take her mind—and everyone else’s—off of it. The topic then switches to books, as they both recall a poem that reminds them of the strange beauty of springtime... (full context)
Book One: August 15-September 10, 1771
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
...Wilhelm that whatever comfort nature once provided him is completely gone now, and even his books make him feel sick. He claims to again be considering going to work for the... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
...of Homer that he can easily take with him on his walks. Lotte wrapped the book using one of the ribbons she wore when she first met Werther. Werther compares the... (full context)
Book Two: March 15-May 25, 1772
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...the other guests. Werther leaves without having to be asked, instead choosing to read the book Lotte gave him while watching the sunset. Later, he learns from Adelin, a coworker, that... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...sure he can trust them. Furthermore, the Prince himself seems only to care about Werther’s book-learning and not about his feelings. In response to this, Werther tells Wilhelm that anyone can... (full context)
Book Two: November 8-December 6, 1772
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
...he remembers that unrequited love is often a theme taken up by ancient poets. Their books, he reminds himself, sometimes feel as though they are addressing him directly. (full context)
Book Two: December 20-21, 1772
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
...so, but the sadness of the tale moves them both to tears. Werther casts the book aside and embraces Lotte, who accepts his embrace until he begins to kiss her. At... (full context)