Death in Venice: Death Symbolism

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  • Topic: Venice, Death in Venice, Death
  • Pages : 4 (1610 words )
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  • Published : June 20, 2012
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Death Symbolism

In the novella Death in Venice, Thomas Mann depicts a widowed author in his fifties who is experiencing writer’s block. The story opens with Aschenbach walking outside of a cemetery, a place symbolizing death. When he sees a strange red headed man, he experiences a wilderness dream that evokes signs of peril, and he decides to take a vacation in search of a new spark for his work and a new life. The people, places and things that he encounters are reflective of death in various ways. Death in Venice portrays Aschenbach’s losses: his loss of creativity for artistic expressions, his loss of youth, and his loss of sanity. Although at first glance it seems like Aschenbach hopes to escape his losses in search of a new life, I will argue that he actually steps into his own death. To begin with, this paper will explore the symbols of death Aschenbach encounters at the cemetery and during his ride to Venice. Then, it will explore the signs of death surrounding Tadzio, and those in the final scene, with an analysis of what those symbols mean in relation to the story's plot and main character. First, I will explain how visions hold influence with symbolic interpretations. At a cemetery, Aschenbach has a profoundly disturbing vision which shows his impending demise. After having seen an odd red headed man (earlier at this cemetery), he promptly makes his decision to travel and envisions “...hairy trunks of palm trees...sluggish flood waters, milky-white flowers the size of plates...[and] the glint from the eyes of a crouching tiger...” (142). The glint from the tiger's eyes reflects the bestial characteristics of Aschenbach, which he is unable to tame and which can devour his very being; this is a foreshadowing of the death which is ready to pounce and claim its victim. He paints a scene of extreme chaos and disturbance, and in the end, he sees a tiger that is ready to attack and take his life. Although the instability of the scene...
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