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The contradiction between one's public image and unadulterated feelings or desires is a dominant theme in Death in Venice and Cat and Mouse. Both use minor characters to help represent this theme as well as foreshadowing plot.

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Introduction

Thesis: The contradiction between one's public image and unadulterated feelings or desires is a dominant theme in Death in Venice and Cat and Mouse. Both use minor characters to help represent this theme as well as foreshadowing plot. Minor characters may often be overlooked in literature as the reader's attention is focused on the major characters. However, minor characters are, in fact, an important contributor to theme and plot. On comparing Death in Venice and Cat and Mouse, a similar theme arises; the struggle in human nature between what is conveyed on the surface and what is happening beneath. The minor characters represent this struggle in the major characters, while foreshadowing their fate. In Thomas Mann's novella, the reader is invited to witness Aschenbach's struggle with admitting his love for Tadzio, while maintaining his respectable reputation. When examining the old man on the boat and the poor singing quartet, it is clear that the appearance and manner of the minor characters are very similar. They portray Aschenbach's inner torment and foreshadow his tragic fall from grace. The minor characters in G�nter Grass's novel represent somewhat differently Mahlke's actions (participating in the war) conflicting with his inner beliefs. The undermining of the priest and the behaviour of Mahlke towards the lieutenant commander symbolize Mahlke's struggle and foreshadow his joining the military. ...read more.

Middle

Disguising the truth can also be seen in Cat and Mouse through the priest, Father Gusewski. It can be argued that he takes advantage of Pilenz by exploiting his spiritual position. For example, on page 123 Pilenz describes the priest's occasional "wanderings of his hands...down [Pilenz's] back...to the waist of [Pilenz's] gym shorts...", and Father Gusewski uses the power of his spiritual position to defend his behaviour when he says that it was Pilenz's "catholic soul he was looking for". The priest's inner desires are concealed through his position much like Aschenbach's are through his. Mahlke's conflict is in his spiritual inner self conflicting with the inevitably of joining the war. Eventually, he conforms to society and ignores his true opinions of the war. Perhaps, the undermining of the priest foreshadows Mahlke's efforts to ridicule the lieutenant when Mahlke steals the medal. Also on page 123, the narrator discusses the priest's attempts at changing his name to sound more Germanic. The priest is in a way complying with the war similarly to Mahlke. Perhaps, the priest's actions foreshadow Mahlke's surrender of his faith when he temporarily joins the military. Similarly, the lead singer in the "beggar virtuoso" lies to Aschenbach when he conceals the truth about the cholera epidemic. The arrival of Aschenbach's death is once again stressed by the appearance and manner of the minor character. ...read more.

Conclusion

If the lieutenant delineates the war, then Mahlke's attitude towards it is clearly that of someone opposing it. Juxtaposing the hero and the anti-hero represents Mahlke's inner struggle. He cannot avoid joining the military, yet it goes against his inner beliefs. Mahlke must conform to society and conceal his real opinions much like Aschenbach does his. Mahlke's dissidence with the war efforts is evident again in his attempt to steal the lieutenant's medal. This foreshadows Mahlke's accordance with the military as he has broken the law, and positions himself closer to the lieutenant who is symbolic of the war. In both texts, the minor characters embody the struggle of the major characters, while signifying their fate. The minor characters are, in effect, literary motifs used to symbolize theme and plot. In Death in Venice, Aschenbach must appease his love for Tadzio, as it cannot be unmasked for the public's eye. However, the famous writer succumbs to the power of his desire and stays in Venice despite the many warning signs, and he is led to his death. The same occurs in Cat and Mouse when Mahlke refuses to return to the military at the end of the novel. Mann and Grass carefully demonstrate the influence minor characters have on the text as a whole. Through characterising the minor characters and including them in the larger scheme of things, the importance of their role is made very clear. Megan McGill June 16th, 2003 - 1 - ...read more.

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