Faust Part Two (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

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1. What is the genre?

Global—Morality > Redemptive

Secondary—Worldview > Disillusionment

2. What are the conventions and obligatory scenes for the genre?


Despicable protagonist begins at his/her worst: Faust seems to have no memory of his past that could be changing his moral sensibility. He starts the story by living a lie as he pretends to be the god of wealth.

Spiritual mentor/sidekick: Mephisto is a mentor as well as Faust’s sidekick, who does not have Faust’s best interest in mind because he pursues his own selfish want to get Faust’s soul.

Seemingly impossible external conflict: Faust and the success of his project depend on the devil’s magic power. Faust has to overcome the monster to be able to find peace in the afterlife.

Ghosts from protagonist’s past torment him/her: There are four grey hags who have risen from the smoke of the burning cottage of the old couple and who come to visit Faust. They are Want, Debt, Distress, and Care, but only the latter is able to reach him.

Aid from unexpected sources: After Faust’s death Mephisto wants to take his soul, but Faust is saved by angels.

Obligatory Scenes

A shock upsets the hibernating authentic self: Faust wants to save Helen from Paris in the play and is knocked down by a burst of thunder and falls unconscious.

The protagonist expresses inner darkness with an overt refusal of the Hero’s Journey call to change: Faust wants to find Helen. It’s still love that controls his actions.

Protagonist faces an All is Lost moment and either discovers their inner moral code or chooses the immoral path: Faust is heartbroken because he lost his son Euphorion and his wife Helen, who tells him that happiness and beauty can never permanently be combined. Faust has learned that space and time cannot easily be conquered so that he can join ancient and modern together to achieve a synthesis. That’s why Faust denies Mephisto’s offer for more pleasure and glory. Faust now wants to do something for the community with his plan to reclaim the land from the sea. Even though Faust is still dependent on Mephisto’s aid, he wants to use Mephisto’s power for creation (and not destruction) by putting chaos into order and harnessing destructive forces for constructive ends.

Protagonist decides to change: Faust learns that Mephisto and the Three Mighty Men have killed the old couple. Faust is overcome by remorse and anger. It is the first time that he blames only himself for the evil consequences of his acts which shows a big step in his moral regeneration. That’s why Faust is unable to resist the grey hag Care and tells her that he has learned that humans should not seek after impossible things, but only be concerned with what is legitimately attainable in human life.

Protagonist actively sacrifices in service of an individual, a group, or humanity (positive), or consciously chooses to remain selfish (negative): Faust is determined to finish his project because he has, at last, rejected his constant obsession about his own destiny, and has begun to find his meaning in the service for others and in the active participation in humanity’s struggle to build a better world.

Protagonist faces literal or metaphorical death and either loses the battle but gains self-respect, meaning and peach; or wins the battle but loses those things: Faust is unaware that the Lemures are digging his grave. He thinks they are continuing his life’s work. Faust is filled with a proud vision of the future where the people can live in prosperity and happiness once they can inhabit the reclaimed lands. He utters the words from the deal from Part 1, even though he relates them to the future and not to the present moment. Faust loses his life but wins against Mephisto because his soul has never been surrendered to the devil. His personal moral reformation outweighs all the years he lived in moral error that have taught him the duty of self-surrender. He is saved by the angels and reaches salvation.

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3. What is the point of view?

There is a third-person omniscient narrator who stays unknown to the reader. Faust has been written as a play. That is why we encounter mostly dialogue as well as occasionally some stage directions that make the reader feel like he/she is in a theatre watching the production of the story.

The intended audience is the general public who comes to see the play. The purpose of the play is to tell a cautionary tale about the striving of a scholar who wants to know everything about the world. But he is so disgruntled about human impotence and about the limits of what he can learn that he agrees to a deal with the devil. The story is written in the present tense set in late modern history (mid-18th century) with creatures from Greek mythology (Part 2).

Faust Part 1 and 2 use all three forms of narrative drive. Faust knows nothing about the bet between God and the devil (dramatic irony). The reader has the same information as Faust because neither the reader nor Faust know the world that Mephisto will show him (suspense). There is also some form of mystery because we as the audience as well as Faust do not know how Mephisto will try to win his bet or Faust’s soul.

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4. What are the objects of desire?

External/Conscious: Faust wants to know the absolute truth and the meaning of existence so that he can find the moment of peace when he is absolutely satisfied and does not want to strive anymore. Faust is trying to overcome his physical nature and find peace on a spiritual level. (Worldview)

Internal/Subconscious: Faust needs to start to appreciate life and the life of others to understand what the meaning of life is. He has to start to use his gift (knowledge and striving) to create a better world for humanity. (Moral)

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5. What is the controlling idea / theme?

Good triumphs when the Protagonist sacrifices worldly, selfish values in favor of the needs of others.

Good triumphs when we accept that we have to face disappointments and pitfalls in our lives and that we cannot reach everything we want, but as long as we stay optimistic and learn to use the forces of destruction for constructive ends to contribute to the benefit of others, we will be able to find meaning in our life.

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6. What is the beginning hook, middle build and ending payoff?

Beginning Hook – Faust is inspired by the choir’s song that expresses the power of Nature to cleanse and renew even the most tormented soul. He realizes that he can continue his efforts to satisfy his ambition but on a scale, more in proportion to his abilities. He denounces to seek fulfillment in sensual passion, but is overwhelmed by Helen’s beauty. He has to decide if he takes Helen away from Paris to join ancient and modern together to achieve a perfect synthesis of the universe’s finest elements or accept that what once was is now history and he can’t change it. Faust tries to get Helen. He is knocked down by a burst of thunder and falls unconscious. He understands then that his failure shows the difficulty of grasping the mystery of life by a single act of will.

Middle Build – Back in the time of the war between Troy and Persia Faust pledges his love to Helen and flees with her to Arcadia but when he loses her and his only son, he has to decide if he wants to go after love again of if he wants to battle against the forces of Nature itself. Faust decides that a battle against the forces of Nature is the only fit project for him and he uses Mephisto’s Three Mighty Men for winning the battle for the emperor who grants Faust some land near the sea for Faust’s new plan.

Ending Payoff – Faust’s successful project of reclaiming the land from the sea is proving the dominance of human order over unrestrained chaos, but Faust considers his achievement a failure because he is bothered by the humble way of the life of an old couple. He orders them to be evicted, but as he learns that the Three Mighty Men have killed them, he must take on the blame for his actions or live in eternal damnation. Faust blames himself and is blinded by the grey hag Care, but realizes that the purpose of his constant service to others was to build a better world and this realization brings his soul to salvation.

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Faust 1 & 2 Summary

Overall meta controlling idea (probably one of a thousand due to the many possibilities of interpretation): Good triumphs when even God bets against the devil to prove that a man who is aware of the righteous path may err, but who will ultimately serve the world with his knowledge and his striving (even though it’s motivated by selfish ambitions). Through that he will receive the forgiveness of those he failed because it is love that can save a restless soul that never found real peace in the world of the living and who stayed optimistic until the very end and tried it’s best to find inner peace even before the afterlife.

What is the Beginning Hook, the Middle Build, and Ending Payoff?

  • Beginning Hook – When a suicidal scholar learns that even the devil is subject to a form of law and agrees to a deal with him, he has to decide if he wants to use his newly gained power for selfish needs or for the betterment of the life of others. He decides to satisfy his lust by seducing a young innocent girl bringing death to her whole family and even to her.
  • Middle Build – Still striving to find meaning in his life, Faust combines ancient beauty and modern knowledge together by having a son with the Greek princess Helen, but after losing them he has to decide if he wants to love again or if he should work on another project. Faust decides to battle against nature itself while still using Mephisto’s magical aid for his plans.
  • Ending Payoff – Having reclaimed the land from the sea, Faust is bothered by an old couple who live close to him. As he learns that they have been killed on his orders to evict them, Faust has to decide if he takes on the blame for their death or if he should continue using the power of the devil. Faust realizes that humans should not seek after impossible things, but should only be concerned with what is legitimately attainable in human life. He learns to understand that through the service to others and participating in constructive actions a man will find his meaning, and his soul is saved.

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