At the beginning of the story, Faust is depicted as God’s faithful servant who, as Mephistopheles puts it, “serves thee (God) truly in a wondrous fashion.” (Goethe, Faust part 1). He is described as a hardworking wizard and scholar whose dedication towards serving the downtrodden has earned him heaven. His greatest weakness however is his insatiable thirst for knowledge that could ultimately cost him his eternal soul. In this regard, God agrees with Mephistopheles’ criticism of his servant when he says: “Man errs as long as he strives” (Goethe, Faust part 1).
This leads to Mephistopheles waging a bet that if God grants him permission, he can lead Faust astray. The bet is on as God declares that “A good man in his darkest aberration, of the right path is conscious still” (Goethe, Faust part 1), in other words even in his darkest moments his servant Faust will choose the righteous path.
Meanwhile, Faust’s quest for knowledge makes him more and more restless as he feels that despite his vast knowledge in various sciences and his magical powers, he knows little about the universe and how it works. This restlessness proves to be more than he can bear as he considers suicide. Ultimately, Mephistopheles promises to show Faust the secrets of the world only if he sells his soul to him. Faust agrees to the pact since he doubts that the human soul can live eternally and he agrees only on the condition that the adventure must culminate to a profound moment of happiness never know by any human being.
Mephistopheles takes him through a string of adventures that ultimately leads to Faust’s’ death, but not before he comes to the realization that man can never know everything about life and that he has to be content with limited knowledge. Before his death he had also started a project that upon completion, would benefit humankind; he died knowing this project would reach others and therefore earning him God’s grace again, emphasizing what God had said from the beginning that “Then stand abash’d, when thou perforce must own, a good man in his darkest aberration, of the right path is conscious still’ (Goethe, Faust part 1). Mephistopheles then retrieves in defeat.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust part 1 & 2 Prologue in heaven and the pact with the devil, Translated by Louis MacNeice, 2008-02-29