The dominant theme in Death in Venice is, obviously, death. This theme is exploited through the use of irony, imagery, and symbolism. The theme is most effectively explored by means of symbolism. Mann's symbolism is not as straight-forward as most authors, however, and the reader is forced to dig deep in order to determine the true meaning of any given passage. This pseudo-hidden symbolism forces the reader to be acutely aware of its presence from page one, or else the point may be missed altogether.
During the opening of the novel, the reader is confronted with an exotic stranger, Aschenbach, who is the first of many "tokens" of death. This symbol is suggested in the description of the stranger:
His chin was up, so that the Adam's apple looked very bald in the lean neck rising from the loose shirt; and he stood there sharply peering up into space out of colourless, red-lashed eyes.... At any rate, standing there as though at survey, the man had a bold and domineering, even a ruthless air, and his lips completed the picture by seeming to curl back, either by reason of some deformity or else because he grimaced, being blinded by the sun in his face; they laid bare the long, white, glistening teeth to the gums.
This passage almost implies that the man is a skeleton, or at least that he is ghostly, with the bared teeth of a skull. The reader knows nothing about the stranger, is soon disappointed to learn nothing of him, and yet the stranger has already served his purpose: he is the first envoy of death in the novel. Also, the fact that the scene occurs in the vicinity of a cemetery is no coincidence.
Later on, when Aschenbach arrives in Venice, Mann introduces symbolism to...
... middle of paper ...
... (Mann, too, conducted all his literary work during first light). The determination to sustain and survive existed in the spirit of both artists. Yet "Death in Venice" is by no certain means a narrowly autobiographical narrative. Nevertheless, much that is the artist Aschenbach is part of the artist Mann, and thus can be interpreted as a faint symbol of Mann. Perhaps Aschenbach is an extreme example of the imperfections Mann combated during his own lifetime; if this indeed is the case, then Aschenbach is not only a token of the frailty of Mann, but an emblem of the fallacies plaguing us all.
Works Cited and Consulted:
Albert, George. Symbolism in Death in Venice. Notre Dame Press, Indiana. 1995
Mann, Thomas. Death in Venice and Other Stories. New York: Random House, Inc., 1989.
Wagner, Rich. The Autobiographical Tragedy. New York: Vintage Books, 1992.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- 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.... [tags: Thomas Mann Death Venice]
2021 words (5.8 pages)
- Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is a simple story line with three distinct plot lines incorporated into each other intricately. These three plot lines are the bond plot, the casket plot, and the ring plot, each equally vital to the meaning and conclusion of the play. In this essay, I will discuss the roles of the characters in the plot, the symbols, images, and rhetorical figures central to each plot, and finally how the events of the three plots are intertwined. The first sign that the three plot lines are intertwined is that the characters involved in each plot overlap.... [tags: Shakespeare play analysis]
785 words (2.2 pages)
- ... In giving Bassanio her ring, Portia assumes the traditionally masculine role, both in giving the ring and in giving herself, a role usually belonging to the father of the bride: …But now, I was the lord Of this fair mansion, master of my servants, Queen o'er myself;… (3.2.167-9) By referring to herself as the 'lord' and 'master' of the house rather than the 'lady' and 'mistress', Portia makes it clear that she has been in charge of and running the estate since her father's death, rather than the more traditional female role of managing only the household.... [tags: Shakespeare plays, literary analysis]
1602 words (4.6 pages)
- Othello, the Moor of Venice is a drama that is solely built around many characters interpretation of symbolism. The handkerchief that is given to Desdemona from Othello plays a critical role in the play because of its symbolism. Along with the individual symbolism and significance of the handkerchief, it also plays a role in different interpretations made by many characters. The characters interpretation of the handkerchief in the drama plays a critical role in analyzing the meanings of the symbol.... [tags: Shakespeare's Othello, symbolism analysis]
943 words (2.7 pages)
- Throughout history with no specific date of origin, people have used objects to represent ideas. These objects of representation are known as symbols. Symbols are used in almost everything we see in our daily lives. They are often flashed right in front of us without us mentally taking notice of them. It takes observation and a comprehension of certain things to understand symbols. For example one might question why there is a bald eagle on the back of the quarter. Fact is the bald eagle is known to be a strong creature therefore is a symbolism of strength which is what the United States is known to be.... [tags: Symbolism, Symbols]
1392 words (4 pages)
- Exploring Death in Death in Venice Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, is a story that deals with mortality on many different levels. There is the obvious physical death by cholera, and the cyclical death in nature: in the beginning it is spring and in the end, autumn. We see a kind of death of the ego in Gustav Aschenbach's dreams. Venice itself is a personification of death, and death is seen as the leitmotif in musical terms. It is also reflected in the idea of the traveler coming to the end of a long fatiguing journey.... [tags: Death in Venice Essays]
1504 words (4.3 pages)
- Aschenbach: In love with Tadzio, or Venice. Thomas Mann's Death in Venice presents an artist with a fascination for beauty that overpowers all of his senses. Aschenbach's attraction to Tadzio can be viewed as a symbol for his love for the city of Venice. The city, however, is also filled with corruption, and it is this corruptive element that kills him. Aschenbach first exhibits his love for Venice when he feels that he must go to "one of the gay world's playgrounds in the lovely south"(6). The south, to him, means something new and exciting.... [tags: Death in Venice Essays]
789 words (2.3 pages)
- Art as a Reflection of Life in Death in Venice Death in Venice explores the relationship between an artist, namely Gustave von Aschenbach, and the world in which he lives. Aschenbach, destined to be an artist from a young age, represents art, while his surroundings represent life. As the story unfolds, Aschenbach endeavors on a journey in an attempt to relinquish his position in society as an artist. Aschenbach wants to experience life, as opposed to merely reflecting upon it, as he has done for so many years.... [tags: Death in Venice Essays]
1212 words (3.5 pages)
- Relationship between Art and Life Explored in Death in Venice The novella Death in Venice by Thomas Mann examines the nature of the relationship between art and life. The progression of the main character, Gustave Von Aschenbach, illustrates the concept of an Apollinian/Dionysian continuum. Apollo is the Greek god of art, thus something Apollinian places an emphasis on form. Dionysus is the Greek god of wine and chaos, hence something Dionysian emphasizes energy and emotion. In The Birth of Tragedy Friedrich Nietzsche suggests that,"...... [tags: Death Venice Essays]
1399 words (4 pages)
- Death In Venice To have an understanding of the use of disease as a metaphor in Thomas Mann’s novella Death In Venice, it is useful to understand the concept of disease itself. According to Webster’s Dictionary, 1913 edition, disease is defined as the “lack of ease; uneasiness; trouble; vexation; disquiet.” These words do embody the struggles of the great author, and main character of the novella, Gustav Aschenbach, but it is the description of disease as “an alteration in the state of the body or of some of its organs, interrupting or disturbing the performance of the vital functions, and causing or threatening pain and weakness; malady; affection; illness; sickness; disorder; -- ap... [tags: Thomas Mann Death Venice Metaphor Essays]
2095 words (6 pages)