The Novel Tristan by Thomas Mann Essay

The Novel Tristan by Thomas Mann Essay

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Mann’s novella “Tristan” (1902) demonstrates how the reader’s emotional attitude towards death diminishes when juxtaposed to beauty and presented aesthetically, while Aichinger’s “Story in a Mirror” (1954) illustrates how death is accentuated through the presentation of the antithesis. Both stories revolve around death – Aichinger’s is more explicit while Mann’s more implicit. A significant factor in how death played a role in the two stories is based on how the authors set the story as well as the imagery used to convey the finer descriptors.
Defining aesthetics presents difficulty, but it is commonly accepted that symmetry and purity are artistically pleasing. For instance 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 atypical 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 a tranquil air of natural world. Mann so abruptly inserts that Einfried is a sanatorium, and almost without effort, suppressed the reader’s thoughts of the ailing through an even more powerful distraction, natural splendor. The author initially appealed to the reader’s knowledge of a sanatorium by opening with “Einfried, the sanatorium.” (317, Mann) He continues this stylistically choppy technique into the next sentence, “a long white, rectilinear building…” (3...


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...s peaceful, the one place where the grass is actually greener on the other side, the one place she could be at rest. For this is a rather rapidly paced short story, with an entire life occurring within the span of twelve pages. So for there to be an example of stillness and calm among all the commotion and retelling provides a stark juxtaposition. Then the author continues to accentuate the point by stating: “She’s at the open door, holding out her hand towards you. It’s a filthy hand, and the whole place is filthy…the stairs creak here too, and the ship’s sirens howl.” (63 Aichinger) The quote intertwines the feeling of the narrator in the prior excerpt and amplifies them by the use of grimy language and the once again piercing howl. One need not be a romantic to realize that the narrator is emotionally damaged and the emotions are being actualized all around her.

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