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Aschenbach's fall from Grace in 'Death in Venice'.

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Stephen B. Mangan October 9, 2004 Aschenbach's fall from Grace in 'Death in Venice' Thomas Mann's 'Death in Venice' is on the surface a novella about a well-known, strong disciplined gentleman writer, Gustave von Aschenbach, from Germany during the early 1900's who is approaching middle age, and, is in need of a new motivation of sorts as he feels his productivity as a writer is waning. He decides to take a summer holiday, first to the Adriatic, but it is not satisfactory and believes that a trip to Venice will bring him a renewed vigor and perspective that would bring his work new meaning. Aschenbach soon travels to Venice and takes up residence at the Lido, a highly prestigious resort on the outskirts of the city. It is here that Aschenbach notices a young Polish boy, Tadzio, who is fourteen years old and very handsome. Tadzio is vacationing with his mother and sisters. Throughout the course of his stay, Aschenbach is very enamored with Tadzio's good looks and attempts to sneak anonymous glances of him whenever possible, either at dinner or breakfast, or out on the beach during the day. This crush soon leads to an obsession of Tadzio by Aschenbach. He begins to follow Tadzio everywhere he goes and becomes restless in his pursuit. His obsession is so strong that he does not even realize he has been infected by the cholera that has swept over the city that will eventually destroy him. ...read more.


He acknowledges to himself that the time that he spends at his summer home with his servants is rather boring and not much different than his existence at his permanent home. It's not really a vacation, but just a change of scenery but the same old day-to-day activities. He first decides on the Adriatic but this is too dreary and soon settles upon Venice. It is in Venice that Aschenbach notices the youthful Tadzio at the resort at dinner. Though Aschenbach never speaks to Tadzio he feels he knows a great deal about the boy, that he is special and compares him to Greek sculpture and Eros, the Greek God of love when he notices him a second time at breakfast. He notices that Tadzio is not dressed uniformly like his sisters and doesn't possess their "uniform expression" (Mann, 25) Aschenbach feels renewed and begins to write at the beach and his physical side takes over. However, he soon stops writing "not wanting to miss the diversions of the scene before him whenever Tadzio passes by" (Sparknotes). This is the beginning of Aschenbach's emotional side overtaking his physical side. "At first, Aschenbach believes he can admire this beauty dispassionately, from a purely intellectual, aesthetic standpoint." (Sparknotes) Aschenbach is in denial that his emotional side is even present. While taking a stroll through the streets of Venice, Aschenbach feels ill and decides that he must leave Venice and go where the air is better. ...read more.


Aschenbach never grew up emotionally. His passions were hiding deep within his emotional soul. They began to surface when he first decided that he needed a holiday. His dealings with Tadzio have brought out his emotions via a knife cutting into his soul and releasing them. It wasn't one specific event as it is with some people with similar circumstances. "As seen in Aschenbach, who begins by rejecting the passionate side of himself in favor discipline and intellect and ends by embracing the passionate, primitive self, totally disregarding moral restraining and discipline." (Zltonick-Woldenberg) His feelings were slowly released over the period of the summer holiday, such that he doesn't notice them and is thus unable to control or acknowledge them. His defense mechanisms, based purely on working harder and harder to resolve the issue in his mind kick in and he gets into a loop of sorts of which he is unable to get himself out of. His thoughts and longings have led him to obsessions where he feels that he can work himself out of but in doing so, ignores everything else around him, most importantly the cholera that takes his life without even his noticing. He has not lived a balanced existence and thus lives dangerously on both sides of the scale. Perhaps, if Aschenbach had close friends or family to support him, he would have received help in noticing what was happening to him and possibly not have suffered such dire consequences. His need to be alone and achieve autonomy through only his work is his true downfall. ...read more.

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