Essay on Analysis Of Death In Tristan and Story In A Mirror

Essay on Analysis Of Death In Tristan and Story In A Mirror

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Both Thomas Mann’s novella “Tristan” (1902) and Ilse Aichinger’s much more abbreviated “Story in a Mirror” (1952) revolve around the topic of death; moreover, both treat their subjects in an aestheticized manner. However, they do so for the sake of achieving different effects. Mann’s purpose is to demonstrate that – for some characters at least – death can lose its emotional impact when it is juxtaposed with beauty and presented in an aesthetic manner; Aichinger’s, in contrast, accentuates the disturbing nature of death by juxtaposing it with the seemingly beautiful, yet ultimately dark imagery.
Defining aesthetics presents difficulty, but it is commonly accepted that symmetry and purity are artistically pleasing. For instance, the opening scene of Tristan describes Einfried as “a long white, rectilinear building with a side wing set in a spacious garden pleasingly equipped with grottoes…” (317, Mann) Einfried, by its very nature as a hospital for the infirm, should evoke unpleasant emotions of sadness and death. However, Mann paints the reader a quite unconventional picture of such an establishment: “Behind its slate roofs the mountains tower heavenwards, evergreen, massy, cleft with wooded ravines.” (317, Mann) And quite abruptly, the notion that people might go here to die is washed out of one’s consciousness and all that remains is the tranquil air of the natural world. Mann mentions that Einfried is a sanatorium extremely abruptly, and then, almost without effort, suppresses the reader’s thoughts of the ailing through an even more powerful distraction: natural splendor. Initially, the author appeals to the reader’s knowledge of a sanatorium by opening with “Einfried, the sanatorium.” (317, Mann) He continues this stylistic...


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... the reader interprets the final resting place as a pleasurable one. Or in Mann’s novella, the possibility that Einfried did save Gabriele since her death was never explicitly stated. Many writers shape characters through physical descriptions and narration or through the characters own actions, but Mann and Aichinger decide to shape the readers mood through the use of overpowering imagery that spews over to the characters themselves. The two stories together can demonstrate that an author’s use imagery has absolute rein over the outcome of a story, as well as the reader himself, for it can make a dying woman, Gabriele, look so graceful and full of life, and another women moving towards birth, a universally celebrated event, so dismal and horrendous. Ultimately, death can be accentuated or marginalized solely based on the author’s presentation of aesthetic imagery.

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