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Symbols, Symbolism and Irony in Thomas Mann's Death in Venice Essay

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Symbols, Symbolism and Irony in Thomas Mann's Death in Venice

 
    In the novel Death in Venice, by Thomas Mann, an observer compliments the main character Gustave von Aschenbach by saying, " 'You see, Aschenbach has always lived like this '-here the speaker closed the fingers of his left hand to a fist-'never like this '-and he let his hand hang relaxed from the back of his chair" (p. 1069).  This is a perfect description of Aschenbach, a man set in convention, driven to succeed from an early age, quite dull really.  After all, his favorite motto was "hold fast" (p. 1070).  He has always kept his feelings in check, and never allowed himself to lose control of any aspect of his life.  As the story progresses, however, the fist that is Aschenbach slowly opens up until it finally releases all the pent-up emotion and desire.  Wrought with symbolism and irony, Death in Venice tells a tragic tale of unbridled lust, misspent youth, and the undoing of a man, once so firmly in control his life, as he ultimately surrenders to a passion that overcomes him.

Gustave von Aschenbach is a renowned and successful writer, yet he is losing any passion he might have once had for his craft.  He has always been driven to achieve, and thus has spent no time in the pursuit of happiness or even simple pleasures.  His life is entirely predictable. "Too busy with the tasks imposed upon him by his own ego and the European soul, too laden with the care and duty to create, too preoccupied to be an amateur of the gay outer world, he had been content to know as much of the worlds surface as he could without leaving his own sphere-had, indeed, never been tempted to leave Europe" (p. 1067).  But he becomes tired of his day-to-day existence, growing di...


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...t in Othello, "If it were now to die, 'Twere now to be most happy."i[2]  Never again would Aschenbach experience such a moment of utter bliss and perfection; following this instant there was nothing left to live for. 

 

Notes:

1 Mythology summaries taken from www.greekmythology.com

2 Othello, Act 2, Scene 1, lines 189-190 www.geocities.com/~spanoudi/quote-19c.html
Works Cited:

"Death in Venice," Thomas Mann, Michael Henry Heim (Translator) Publisher: Harper Perennial (May 31, 2005) Othello, Act 2, Scene 1, lines 189-190 www.geocities.com/~spanoudi/quote-19c.html Greek Mythology For Dummies www.greekmythology.com


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