By Thomas L. Jeffers (auth.)
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Additional resources for Apprenticeships: The Bildungsroman from Goethe to Santayana
Like the Eternal Feminine at the end of Faust, Natalia is a symbol of the Kantian, transcendent good Wilhelm longs for—something he in fact wishes he did not long for, so difficult is its attainment. When in the end he does attain it, or when rather it is given to him like a lottery prize he has done nothing to deserve, we have very little to do but cheer his good fortune and hope Natalia will give him the several kinds of love he requires. We have to take on faith what we hear of her acts of charity, her personal beauty, her intelligent connoisseurship.
Good. The bad news is that it is often very difficult to distinguish the one from the other. Still, platitudinous as such a bare statement makes it sound, this is a commonsensical middle course between a radical doctrine of free will, which would pretend in brash early-Sartrian fashion (and it was a fashion) that absolutely everything in life is a matter of choice, and a complete determinism, which would leave us to the capricious winds of natural selection. Wilhelm’s being too young to understand the First Stranger’s doctrine doesn’t in the least undercut it.
Worried that such mysticism might lead his children, Natalia and Lothario, toward hyperspirituality and morbid self-denial, the Beautiful Soul’s uncle has raised them along strictly secular lines. Still, as the grown-up Natalia recognizes, it is important to tolerate, even to reverence, the ideal her older cousin has stood for. 94–95). The Beautiful Soul’s model of perfection is there, like the depiction of 24 The BILDUNGSROMAN from Goethe to Santayana Jesus’ suffering and death in the temple of the Pedagogic Utopia, in case Wilhelm or anyone else may need it.
Apprenticeships: The Bildungsroman from Goethe to Santayana by Thomas L. Jeffers (auth.)