The purpose of this essay is to examine the conflict between rationality and irrationality in Death in Venice and to assess how this conflict is developed and possibly resolved. This conflict is fought and described throughout the short story with reference to ancient Greek gods, predominately Apollo and Dionysus and through the philosopher and philosophy of Plato. Through contemporary influences such as Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, Mann further reflects on these ancient sources through a modern prism and this he does in this tale of life and death of the protagonist Aschenbach.
In order to answer the above question I shall therefore firstly have to examine the character of Aschenbach and the development/changes that occur within this character throughout the story. I shall do this by referencing Ashenbach's character development from the Apolline to the Dionysian. After tracing this development we shall then have a clear starting point for examining the ideas played out through the protagonist and we shall be able to examine these ideas closely. This shall involve an assessment of Aschenbach's belief in and final refutation of Platonic form and acceptance of irrational thought in form of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. I shall then conclude the essay with an examination of the rational/irrational narratorial influences that hold together the essence of Aschenbach's character changes, although these influences are naturally without the character. These will include the use of myth and the use of strangers. It is my hypothesis that Death in Venice is the tragedy of the inevitable destruction of any Apolline artist in a culture that rewards a repressed state of being. By the end of this essay I will have therefore hopeful...
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...logy been used to show the internal struggle about to be unleashed in Aschenbach.
I believe I have now outlined with reference to the text the disintegration of Aschenbach, the inevitability of his death, assessed the major philosophical conflicts of rationalism and irrationalism and provided examples of narrative comment that underline the conflict. This conflict is inevitable once the initial scene setting is constructed and there is no return for Aschenbach back from this destiny.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Mann, T Death in Venice & other stories
Mann, T Mario the Magician & other stories
Nietzsche F Thus spake Zarathustra:
Nietzsche F, The birth of tragedy out of the Spirit of Music
Oxford University Press, 2000
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