It is this genre, characteristic of the literature of the 18th century, that Goethe chooses for his work, and the action takes place in one of the small German towns in the late 18th century. The novel consists of two parts – these are the letters of Werther himself and additions to them under the heading “From the publisher to the reader.” Werther’s letters are addressed to his friend Wilhelm, in them the author seeks not so much to describe the events of life as to convey his feelings that the surrounding world is causing him.
Werther, a young man from a wealthy family, educated, prone to painting and poetry, settles in a small town to be alone. He enjoys nature, communicates with ordinary people, reads his beloved Homer, paints. At a suburban ball of youth, he meets Charlotte S. and falls in love with her without a memory. Lotta, this is the name of the girl close acquaintances, the eldest daughter of the prince’s amtman, there are nine children
in their family. Their mother died, and Charlotte, despite her youth, managed to replace her with her brothers and sisters. It is not only externally attractive, but also has independent judgments. Already on the first day of acquaintance, Werther and Lotta find a coincidence of tastes, they easily understand each other.
Since that time, the young man spends most of his time in the amtman’s house, which is an hour’s walk from the city. Together with Lotta, he visits a sick pastor, goes to take care of a sick lady in the city. Every minute spent near it gives Werther the pleasure. But the love of the young man from the outset is doomed to suffering, because Lotta has a fiance, Albert, who went to take up a job.
Albert arrives, and although he relates to Werther, with a friendly and delicately concealing expression of his feelings for Lotte, the enamored young man is jealous of her. Albert is restrained, intelligent, he thinks Werther is an outstanding man and forgives him his restless disposition. It’s hard for Werther to have the presence of a third person at meetings with Charlotte, he
falls into unrestrained merriment, then into gloomy moods.
One day, to get a little distracted, Werther is going to ride to the mountains and asks Albert to lend his pistols to him. Albert agrees, but warns that they are not loaded. Werther takes one pistol and puts it to his forehead. This innocuous joke turns into a serious dispute between young people about a man, his passions and his mind. Werther tells the story of a girl abandoned by her lover and thrown into the river, for without him life lost all meaning to her. Albert considers this act “stupid,” he condemns a person who, carried away by passions, loses the ability to reason. Werther, on the contrary, disgusts excessive intelligence.
On the day of birth, Werther receives as a present from Albert a bundle: there is a bow from Lotta’s dress, in which he saw it for the first time. The young man suffers, he understands that he needs to do business, leave, but all the time he postpones the moment of separation. On the eve of his departure, he comes to Lotte. They go to their favorite gazebo in the garden. Werther says nothing about the upcoming separation, but the girl, as if foreseeing it, starts talking about death and what will follow. She remembers her mother, the last minutes before parting with her. Worried about her story, Werther still finds the strength to leave Lotta.
The young man leaves for another city, he becomes an official with the envoy. The envoy is picky, pedantic and stupid, but Werther made friends with Count von K. and tries to brighten up his loneliness in conversations with him. In this town, as it turns out, class prejudices are very strong, and the young man now and then indicates its origin.
Werther meets a girl B, which he vaguely reminiscent of the incomparable Charlotte. With her, he often talks about his former life, including telling her and Lotte. The surrounding society annoys Werther, and his relationship with the messenger is getting worse. The case ends in the fact that the envoy complains about it to the minister, the same as the delicate man, writes a letter to the young man, in which he reprimands him for excessive offensiveness and tries to send his crazy ideas to the channel where they will find the right application.
Werther reconciles for a while with his position, but then there is a “trouble” that causes him to leave the service and the city. He was on a visit with Count von K., stayed, at this time the guests began to come. In the town, it was not customary for a low-class man to appear in noble society. Werther did not immediately realize what was happening, besides, when he saw the familiar girl B., he talked to her, and only when everyone started to look at him, and his companion could hardly support the conversation, the young man hastily retired. The next day, gossip went all over the city, that Count von K. had driven Werther out of his house. Not wishing to wait when he was asked to leave the service, the young man submits a resignation petition and leaves.
First, Werther goes to his native places and surrenders to the sweet memories of childhood, then accepts the invitation of the prince and goes to his domain, but here he feels out of place. Finally, unable to bear the separation, he returns to the city where Charlotte lives. During this time she became the wife of Albert. Young people are happy. The appearance of Werther brings discord to their family life. Lotta sympathizes with the enamored young man, but she is also unable to see his torment. Werther is rushing, he often dreams of falling asleep and no longer waking up, or he wants to commit a sin, and then redeem it.
One day, while walking around the town, Werther meets the crazy Henry, who collects a bouquet of flowers for his beloved. Later, he learns that Henry was a scribe from Lotta’s father, fell in love with a girl, and love drove him crazy. Werther feels that Lotta’s image haunts him and he does not have the strength to put an end to suffering. On this letter the young man breaks off, and we learn about his future fate from the publisher.
Love for Lotte makes Werther unbearable for others. On the other hand, gradually the young man’s soul becomes more and more strengthened by the decision to leave the world, for he can not simply leave his beloved. Once he finds Lotta sorting out presents to her family on the eve of Christmas. She appeals to him with a request to come to them next time not earlier than Christmas Eve. For Werther, this means that he is deprived of the last joy in life. Nevertheless, the next day he still goes to Charlotte, together they read a passage from Werther’s translation of Ossian’s songs. In a fit of vague feelings, the young man loses control of himself and approaches Lotte, for which she asks him to leave her.
Returning home, Werther arranges his affairs, writes a farewell letter to his beloved, sends a servant with a note to Albert for the pistols. At midnight, a shot is heard in Werther’s room. In the morning the servant finds a young man still breathing, on the floor, comes the healer, but it’s too late. Albert and Lotta are seriously worried about Werther’s death. Bury him near the city, in the place that he chose for himself.