Mrs Faust is a poem that is based on the German legend that talks of a man who sold his soul to the devil for worldly pleasures. From Mrs Faust’s perspective, she had the ideal lifestyle that everyone wants but she wasn’t satisfied and began to crave something more than just physical wealth. “I grew to love the lifestyle, not the life.” This could suggest that she may have expected that having such a rich, and luxury lifestyle comes with being happy but after she’s got all the wealth, she realises that actually there’s more to life that just money and material things. She begins to separate her lifestyle from her life and sees where she was previously ignorant about what she really wants.
At the beginning of the poem, she talks about being in love with Faust and marrying him when they were students. Duffy uses “we” frequently to show the partnership that Mrs Faust had with her husband and the likeness between them, as well as the happiness that they felt. However, as the poem progresses, the reader learns that the couple wanted wealth and the use of “we” by Duffy turns into the use of “I” and “he” showing that as they got richer and their lifestyle became more and more wealthier, Mrs Faust felt her marriage begin to decay and feels the gap between them widen.
This shows that in the beginning she was happy with her marriage but when they both started wanting material possessions and Faust began chasing the dream, even though they had everything that a person could wish for, they stopped being happy, prompting the question of whether it is moral to live in such a way because a person may lose sight of what is good or bad and what is true happiness and misery. The first four lines of the poem are rhyming couplets and they present change in the relationship; as well as this Faust is presented as boastful of his wealth and having a strong sexual appetite. The fact that Faust craves power and wealth, is replicated in ‘The Kray sisters’ as the twins want money and power, and take pride in wearing ‘”Saville Row”.
An article written in the broadsheet newspaper,1 ‘The Telegraph’, talks about a study done about the correlation between happiness and wealth, and researchers found that even though British people are twice as rich as they were in the 1980s, they are not happier. In fact, another article in2 ‘The Independent’ talks about a study that proved that instead of becoming happier, depression is at the highest point in Britain with suicide rates going up by 16.8 per 100,000 people. The fact that money and wealth does not bring happiness, is shown by Duffy in the poem, towards the end, “For all these years of gagging for it, going for it, rolling in it, I’ve sold my soul.” Faust realises the wrongness of how he lived and he apologises to his wife and confesses that he sold his soul to the devil for his pleasure and lifestyle.
A materialistic person is someone who is convinced that by owning material things, it makes them a better person and a happier person. This is usually motivated by emotional reasons such as, to look good or feel better, rather than functional reasons like travelling or communicating with others. The Faust’s are both materialistic, as they both live a hedonic lifestyle that focuses on what makes them feel good, for example, Mrs Faust changes her appearance with all the money she has and Faust uses his money as a sexual attraction to bed other women aiming to fulfil his sexual desires. Whilst the Fausts use their wealth and materialistic goods to improve their image and desires, the Kray sisters use it to be “rick, feared, famous, friends of the stars”, they only want popularity and to be seen as something big in the eyes of less wealthier people, they want to be feared and have complete power over everyone with the freedom to do as they please.
There is irony throughout the poem because what Mrs Faust and her husband both are looking for and want are right in front of them, family, friends and loved ones. At the end of the poem, there is vivid imagery of what will happen to Faust, “as scaly devil hands poked up right through the terracotta Tuscan tires at Faust’s bare feet and dragged him, oddly smirking, there and then straight down to Hell.” This is followed by an unemotional response by Mrs Faust and Duffy uses the monosyllabic words “Oh, well” to show that Faust dying has no impact on his wife.
The poem shows how moral values have changed in society as time has passed. The view that the ideal lifestyle is to live like the Faust’s is widely believed as its glamorous and many people have begun to believe that with money comes happiness, when in fact there is no correlation between the two. Denmark is the happiest country in the world despite on being the richest, according to Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. This proves that even though society think its morally right to live such a lifestyle to achieve happiness, facts show that people don’t have to be rich to be happy.
1 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/3557112/Happiness-is-the-measure-of-true-wealth.html – Happiness is the measure of true wealth
2 http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/suicide-and-depression-on-rise-across-uk-2137052.html – Suicide and depression on rise across UK