Sunday, January 1, 2012

Faust vs The Devil's Advocate

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Faust vs. The Devil’s Advocate

The literary work “Faust”, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, can be easily compared with the modern movie The Devil’s Advocate. Although there is nearly two hundred years that separate the two artistic works, they both have an overlying major plot of success/happiness for the protagonists brought on by the work of the antagonists. The character relationship between the protagonist and antagonist is another comparison that can be made between “Faust” and The Devil’s Advocate. The previous two statements are simple yet powerful comparisons between the two works however there are subtle differences relating to setting, sub plots, and minor characters.

The first major comparison between Goethe’s “Faust” and The Devil’s Advocate is the relationship between the protagonists and the antagonists. The protagonist Faust is a hero searching for knowledge, love, and power. His antagonist, Mephistopheles, promises to satisfy Faust’s thirst for knowledge and the meaning of life. Throughout the play the relationship between the two is more of a master to servant relationship. This is clearly shown clearly in the play when Faust commands to Mephistopheles, “Get me that girl!” referring to Faust’s desire to have the lovely Gretchen. Again the relationship is exemplified when Faust demands for Mephistopheles to take him to the dungeon where Gretchen is being held.

For The Devils Advocate, Kevin Lomax is the vain Southern lawyer pursuing power and prestige. His antagonist is the head of the law firm, John Milton. Milton becomes a confidant and tempter rather than a servant to show Lomax the side of life that he desires. Clear examples of Milton’s work is the luxurious lifestyle associated with being one of the most powerful lawyers in New York and the behind the scenes lives of the most prestigious people in the city. Lomax’s success is done through the secret works of Milton, even though Lomax is blind to whom Milton actually is.

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There are other similarities and differences between the two works that are noticeable as well. The first is through the characters and their knowledge of what is exactly going on. In Faust, he is fully aware of the contract he has bound himself to, which explains the master servant relationship described earlier. It seems that Faust wanders the countryside in search of his desires, but it is only with the help of Mephistopheles that he finds his interest. These demands from Faust lead to his demise and that of Gretchen through the work of Mephistopheles. Like Gretchen, Mary Ann’s demise is also the product of Milton’s work. In Gretchen’s case, her downfall is done through the hands of Faust, though Faust’s hands are under the control of Mephistopheles.

In the movie, Lomax is blind to what is actually happening until all the minor hints are put together in the scene in Milton’s penthouse. These hints are the growing insanity of his wife, warnings from his mother “behold I send you out as sheep amidst the wolves”, and the overall mysteriousness of Milton and the law firm. Another difference presented in the two artistic works is the conclusion of each. In “Faust”, the end is shown with Faust coming to Gretchen’s aide, however it is too late and all is apparently lost when she gives herself to the Lord. In the end of The Devil’s Advocate, before Lomax goes to confront master Milton, he rushes to Mary Anne’s aid but it is too late as well as she then takes her own life. having some understanding of what is actually going on. When the two meet, Milton says “I’m no puppeteer Kevin; I don’t make things happen…I only set the stage. You pull your own strings”. This directly correlates to the plot of Faust; since it is Faust who actually manipulates Gretchen and it is Faust who actually kills Valentin. The statement by Milton also sets the theme of both works to a simple free will or destiny is decided by our actions.

The two works, “Faust” and The Devil’s Advocate, although separated by almost two hundred years, contain a similar bond of character relationship of protagonist and antagonist; the devil and temptation versus mankind. The other comparison can be made through the plot and the achievement/downfall of the characters. Though “Faust” was written long ago, it makes an easy transition into the modern work in The Devil’s Advocate.

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