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Review of Death in Venice

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Introduction

Review: Death in Venice In the novel Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, the author expresses his theory of the ability of absolute passion and obsession in washing off a person's dignity and common sense through the character Gustav von Aschenbach. Mann's writing is heavy with literary devices such as Greek mythology allusions, symbolisms, imagery, foreshadowing and immense details on different characters in the plot; which contributes towards intensifying the plotline and expressing his theories through the happenings of the story. Death in Venice depicts the gradual development of von Aschenbach's passion and obsession towards a 14 year old boy he meets whilst on vacation in Venice. Gustav Aschenbach is a German writer in his fifties. He is a very serious man with great dignity and self discipline, very dedicated to his writing where everyday he spends hours and hours writing even when fatigue strikes him. One day, von Aschenbach is pondering about his writings and strolling around the English Garden when he reaches the North Cemetery. A most peculiar man caught his thoughts with his eminent features and sudden appearance, upon scrutinizing his appearance and catching the man's hard glance, von Aschenbach encounters a hallucination of his desire to be at somewhere tropical with lush greenery and damp whether. This extraordinary vision and his sudden desire to travel to escape writing lead him to decide on a vacation out of Munich to Venice. ...read more.

Middle

Mann also uses imagery to build up to von Aschenbach's realization that he is spinning out of control and unable to suppress his passion; when von Aschenbach sees Tadzio's smile, it is described as 'the smile of Narcissus', 'a very slightly distorted smile, distorted by the hopelessness of his striving to kiss the sweet lips of his own image', making von Aschenbach so 'deeply shaken' that he went into fits of shudders and overwhelmed emotions, at last wrapping up into a single whisper of 'I love you!', signifying the point where he loses his reason and conscious and plunges into unreason and obsession. This imagery is very powerful because it enables us to picture the boy's smile and its effects on von Aschenbach. On the other hand, Death in Venice is also very heavy in symbolism. The color red runs through the center of this novel, signifying the color of love and passion, as well as the color of anger and the Devil. The color red is first shown when von Aschenbach encounters the red- haired stranger in the cemetery, with 'red-lashed eyes'. This man is what inspires von Aschenbach to travel to Venice, and this strange man connects to the other strange men whom von Aschenbach meets throughout the journey - the old man on the boat to Venice who dresses up young with red 'rouge', the gondolier with reddish eyebrows and the clown with reddish ...read more.

Conclusion

It is also ironic that von Aschenbach compares Tadzio's smile to the smile of Narcissus, because Greek myth states that Narcissus refuses all love offers, which shows that von Aschenbach knows that Tadzio might not return to his love offer and yet, at different parts of the story it seems that Tadzio is constantly beckoning and looking von Aschenbach into his eyes. Mann's writing is also based on the philosophy of Nietzche on Apollo and Dionysus - where men can either be in one side; and von Aschenbach has fully represented the shift from Apollonian to Dionysian. Apollo is the god of reason and intellect; whereas Dionysus is the god of passion and unreason and thus, portrays von Aschenbach's transition from a stiff, scheduled, ordered man into a man of uncontrollable emotions and obsession. This, also supports Mann's theory that he wishes to express from this story - the ability of passion in degrading a person's intellectuality. Death in Venice effectively portrays the process of a man losing his self conscious and common sense to degrade into a state of passion and obsession, through the author's use of effective literary devices and Greek mythology allusions. The readers can easily understand the author's theory that he wants to express, and the story line is very fixed and expected (since the title has already concluded the ending) and there is no possible way how this story can end due to the frequent foreshadowings and symbolisms, thus making it a very interesting book to read. ...read more.

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