- Poetic Reason in Thomas Mann | VQR Online
- Death in Venice: Essay Q&A
- Extract of sample "Symbolism and Polarization in Death in Venice by Thomas Mann"
- by Thomas Mann
Symbolism can be found across cultures and geographical areas, and has been shown to be part of human history since time immemorial. That being said, we can importantly change the meaning of a symbol just by using it in context, as many authors do. The topic of the story is homosexual in nature, which also means that Mann may have had additional pressure to hide some of the ideas he wanted to use behind the cloak of symbolism and imagery.
In terms of literature, this can be termed as a contextual symbol which means that the idea only has symbolism in its current context, something that Mann illustrates beautifully. This can be seen in the text where the protagonist is exploring his unconscious through engaging with the sea in Venice, the use of mythological figures that take on new roles within the story, and the repeated explorations of pederasty to represent the idea that idealism can hide disturbing things. Both stories are rich in contextual symbolism, ideas which only make sense within the context of the book.
The use of contextual symbolism adds to the debate here because it helps to soften an otherwise controversial subject matter. For Humbert Humbert, clothing symbolizes how he feels about Lolita, but also serves from her perspective as a bribe. Lolita once idealized and idolized pieces of clothing, which is why they are such an easy tool for Humbert to use when bribing her to keep quiet about his crimes. The reason that this is relevant is because it is contextually symbolic and works as a method for Nabokov to show the idealism that Humbert has.
This is similar to the fact that Mann wanted to expose the idealism of the Ancient Greek culture to show that it can be hiding some fairly sinister things. Mann wishes to emphasize. Mann intends that he shall experience. This represents, I believe, a singularly successful solution to what Stevenson thought the most difficult of all poetic problems: not that of getting the reader to feel, but of making him feel in precisely the way in which the poet thinks he ought to feel. Poets who work within the bounds of rigidly controlled symbolic references sometimes achieve results more like mathematical demonstrations or bank statements than poems.
Poetic Reason in Thomas Mann | VQR Online
Mann, however, consistently manages to produce effects that are genuinely poetic. There is no more of a plot than that. These people seem to serve only as atmosphere, to be quite unrelated both to one another and to the development of the story, but in truth they constitute the very structure of its elaboration. Before attempting to understand how the symbols of the bass are related to those of the treble, it should be remarked that despite the almost mathematical precision with which the intricate associations are accomplished, they are not meant to be understood.
To be free from artificiality, from the appearance of tour de force, such a highly complicated formal pattern must gain its effectiveness immediately; that is, not through rational processes. This is a comparatively easy accomplishment for the musician, whose medium does not involve meaning, but it demands rare subtlety from a writer.
Death in Venice: Essay Q&A
For example, Aschenbach never notices—and hence the reader seldom does—that the vital stranger who aroused in him the desire to stop working and to try merely living for a while, is the same man as the sinister gondolier who later ferries him to the Lido and his eventual death, and that the clowning beggar of the hotel porch is none other than the gondolier still further down at the heel.
Nor is he ever aware that this ubiquitous person bears a shocking resemblance to the loathsome old fop from Pola. If, as readers, we are not supposed to be consciously aware of these relationships, we may, as critics, proceed to seek them out. The life and death theme is announced at the very beginning of the story: Aschenbach is waiting by the North Cemetery when he sees a wandering stranger. But Aschenbach fails to see the image of himself; indeed, even when, towards the end of the story, he himself resorts to cosmetics in his wooing of Tadzio, the kinship does not occur to him.
The life-death theme, firmly established by these devices, is now taken up for development by the story proper, the details of which I need not enter into here. He is a beggar now, and he smells of disinfectant. Even his arrogance has become tainted with obsequiousness. Aschenbach goes, the next day, to the tourist office to inquire about these rumors. He learns that they are true: there is death in Venice, death that was hatched as pestilence in jungle swamps.
A short coda-like section completes the development of the symbol of imposture; then, in a concluding synthesis, the hero-type symbol is resolved. The symbol of fraud is no longer the old fop, but Aschenbach himself.
Extract of sample "Symbolism and Polarization in Death in Venice by Thomas Mann"
Harassed by chronic apprehensiveness, ravaged by his illicit passion, undone by the anguish of his dream, Aschenbach begins to show the marks of death. The synthesis which brings the story to an end reveals the full meaning of the hero-type symbol, and effects at the same time a final merger of all the other meanings. Unknowing, Aschenbach was confronted with the image of his own beauty.
Now, in the final scene, that ideal is at last glorified again by the frail, the exquisite Tadzio. Tadzio is out on a sandbar in the ocean. And he is outlined against the sea. Once before he was outlined thus—long ago, when for the first time Aschenbach learned the full poignancy of his beauty. Now, at the last, Tadzio is standing out there again, beyond the shore this time, out in the vast expanse itself.
Slowly he turns from the hips, looks over his shoulder with twilight-grey eyes toward the artist seated on the shore, and seems to beckon to Aschenbach to come.
Some interesting things follow from this rather dull arithmetic. Themes All Themes.
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Symbols All Symbols. Theme Wheel. The Sea.
The sea is omnipresent as a kind of background in Venice and Venice is, famously, partly submerged in it. Aschenbach spends much of his time on the beach near his hotel gazing out at the… read full symbol analysis. The Disease. As Aschenbach stays in Venice, he begins to notice that more and more guests are leaving his hotel.
by Thomas Mann
The hotel barber mentions something about a disease to him, but no one is willing to explain… read full symbol analysis. Cite This Page. MLA Chicago. Fredericksen, Erik. Retrieved October 18,