Faust is a learned German scholar who, at the beginning of the poem, is disillusioned and demoralized by his inability to discover life's true meaning. Despite his worldly accomplishments he is assailed by frustration because the traditional and conventional modes of thought that he has mastered cannot help him to discern a coherent purpose or form behind all the numerous and varied phenomena of life and nature. In all his adventures in both parts of the poem Faust is driven by the need to perceive, without the aid of revelation, a rational order as the framework of the world in which he lives. Because of this desire and its effect on his outlook, Faust's philosophical dilemma has been held by many to typify the alienation of man in the modern world.
In the poem, Faust is intended by Goethe to represent all humanity. He possesses all the qualities of human ability and motivation, and is, in effect, an archetypal "everyman" figure. All Faust's virtues and faults, his strengths and weaknesses, are magnified so that his adventures and moral development are presented on a scale that is larger than life. This gives his story a stature and dignity equal to its cosmic theme, and makes Faust's life a mirror of human existence which all men may learn from. Although he is granted salvation at the end of the poem, Faust is a great tragic hero. His tragedy has been described as that of "titanism," for he tries to step beyond the limitations of humanity to seek that which is not given to mankind to know or experience. Because of this his career is a constant series of disappointments and frustrations, but Faust never loses heart and continues the struggle. Ultimately he comes to understand the meaning of life and is received into Heaven, a conclusion that is meant to be an inspiration to all those who read the poem.