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The Power of Irony

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  1. In the letter from the twelfth of August, Werther narrates a discussion he had with Albert that describes their disagreement
  2. Albert declares that ?a man wholly under the influence of his passions has lost his ability to think rationally and is regarded as intoxicated or insane.?
  3. If one finds sympathy in his earlier argument that it is wrong to do this, it now becomes impossible to empathize with Werther since he is doing what he found to be so intolerable
  4. The same kind of self-indulgence that is found in Werther can also be attributed to the character of Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost
  5. It is not only the language that Satan uses which draws the reader to him, but also the sound of the passage pulls us in
  6. Satan's self-indulgence can also be seen in Book IV where he is again discussing his fall from heaven

Johann Goethe and John Milton both imbed verbal irony in their character's soliloquies which presents two different points of view between what the character is saying and how the reader interprets it. In Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, the reader sympathizes with Werther's intellectual reasoning and his passion for what he believes in. None the less, it is through Werther's passionate words that the reader finds faults with the character's perceptions, thus creating a distance between the reader and Werther. The same can be said for the character of Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost. Milton's portrayal of Satan makes the reader want to sympathize with him, but at the same time one finds it morally wrong to do so.

[...] Here, he is talking about himself; he believes himself to be one of those ?extraordinary who is inclined to do things that are ?remotely free or noble or out of the ordinary? (Goethe 61). It is this self-indulgence that causes the reader to take a step back from Werther. It is difficult to identify with Werther's perceptions because it is now apparent that he bases them solely on himself, not on logic. Werther's blatant narcissism also makes it difficult to empathize with him from a moral perception. [...]


[...] Albert declares that man wholly under the influence of his passions has lost his ability to think rationally and is regarded as intoxicated or insane.?(Goethe 61) The irony of this statement is that he is in fact describing Werther. Werther's passion takes a hold of him as he presents his disdain for ?sensible people? when he cries out, have been intoxicated more than once, my passions have never been far off insanity, and I have no regrets?(Goethe 61). One finds it difficult to identify with ?insanity? and it is here that a distance from Werther is created. [...]

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