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Beyond the Homosexual Connection:An Analysis of Thomas Mann´s Death in Venice

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Thomas Mann´s ¨Death in Venice¨ presents a provocative love story between an older man and a young boy. It captures the life of an elderly German writer named Gustave von Aschenbach who, while on vacation, in Venice falls passionately in love with a young Polish boy named Tadzio. However, Aschenbach´s love is unreciprocated and no real relationship is born. Although the romantic involvement between the characters is one sided, the novel has stilled managed to generate diverse and often controversial interpretations. Many critics, such as Anthony Heilbut have interpreted the novel as one of the first literary works openly dealing with homosexuality (Heilbut 251). Other critics, such as Andre Brink argue that Tadzio is not representing a masculine character. On the contrary, they argue that Tadzio represents a ¨feline and feminine¨ figure (Brink 175).
However, the reader can examine the novel independently of these two viewpoints. Even though their views lie on opposite sides of the spectrum, both Heilbut and Brink describe ¨Death in Venice¨ as portraying an abnormal and destructive relationship. Heilbut argues that Aschenbach´s relationship with Tadzio is pedantic and spiteful (Heilbut 249). That it portrays Aschenbach as ¨obscene, frivolous and banal¨ (Helibut 257). Brink argues that Aschenbach´s and Tadzio´s relationship is ¨menacing, dangerous, destructive¨ because Tadzio´s feminine disposition serves as a form of revenge on Aschenbach’s masculine world (Brink 176). However, these viewpoints failed to view ¨Death in Venice¨ in a more neutral light because they focus too much on outside perspectives such as homosexuality or the struggle between a female and male force, rather than on the relationship itself. On the contrary, ¨D...


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Responses. Writing Department, Boston University, MA


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