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This depiction of Aschenbach's state of mind can be interpreted as being one way in which Mann suggests his character's definite detachment from the real world. Psychology studies can easily motivate the role a state of crisis plays in taking abrupt and drastic decisions. It most often leads the individual to engage in desperate gestures and irrational actions. Similarly, Aschenbach can no longer control his urges to see Tadzio and to be around him, even if there would be no actual contact.
The double side of his nature, that which had been denied for so long under the pressures of his German social environment cannot be repressed and the sight of an imminent death makes his actions to be even more uncalculated. Thus, "his head and his heart were drunk, and his steps followed the dictates of that dark god whose pleasure it is to trample man's reason and dignity underfoot." All of the author's descriptions now transform the background in order to accommodate the change in the character's attitude and his development. If in the beginning, Venice was ravishing, a symbol of architectural perfection, offering a sense of emotional relief, in the end it became a decaying sight." This was Venice, the flattering and suspect beauty -- this city, half fairy tale and half tourist trap, in whose insalubrious air the arts once rankly and voluptuously blossomed, where composers have been inspired to lulling tones of somniferous eroticism." The evolution of this descriptive experience s meant to point out in fact the state of human disintegration which now characterized Aschenbach.
There are however, certain passages in which the character is aware of his negative transformation and demands of him a proper explanation for this turn of events. However, he gives himself reasonable circumstances and considers that every action, state of mind, or in fact the entire situation is normal when one surrender to the passions of affection. Still, such moment come in contrast with the presence of Tadzio who maintains his pure Greek like perfection in opposition to the pathetic sight of Aschenbach.
His decay is yet not physically obvious, but rather at a mental level. He becomes tormented by deep unworthy thoughts in which cholera would be in a sense a means through which he could be left alone with the boy, in a city caught in the midst of chaos. He is no longer aware of the realities surrounding him but rather he lives with the impressions nightmares leave upon his emotional side. When he dreams himself in the middle of an ancient ritual, surrounded by exotic spirits, an experience which culminates in an orgiastic worship of a wooden symbol, he becomes truly aware of his irreversible transformation and his lack of power to exercise any will upon his decisions. Ultimately, he changes into the "young man" he had so disgustingly looked upon on his arrival to Venice. He begins using dyes, make up, in an attempt to deny his old self. He cannot control his urges and in order to quench his thirst, he even buys fruits, although people were advised not to. Every action he undertakes is against any norm of conduct he had stood for in the past. This is the ultimate proof of the total loss of his double side, and the victory of his hidden censured self.
This final outcome however was quite predictable and in the end it is exemplified in the confrontation that occurs between Tadzio and his companion Jashu. It comes to point out in fact the idea that had set in motion the entire plot of the novella, that, there is a constant clash between the opposing sides of each character, and dependent of the choices one makes, one or the other side wins. However, Aschenbach had always repressed his desire for affection and love, as a man of austere principles and strict moral conduct. Thus, it was inevitable for this side to eventually prevail. This is pictured at a practical level through Tadzio's escape from Jashu's grip and his rejection of his apologies. Thus, he takes responsibility for his decision and for standing up to Jashu. At the level of deep significances, Aschenbach's dual nature eventually brings his death, but, similarly it is his repressed side that prevails and puts an end to hs suffering. Nonetheless, back in the social environment the writer had led his existence before coming to Venice, he would be properly remembered, without any consideration for the complexity of his character and for the hidden side whose existence he had decided to finally admit.
All in all, it can be concluded that "Death in Venice" is indeed a short story of great complexity and Thomas Mann succeeds in drawing the attention on the intimate conflict which arises in the human soul, between the need for self restrain and control and the desire for passion and lust, a confrontation sophistically presented in the evolution of Aschenbach's character, from a well-known writer to a undignified degraded individual.
Mann, Thomas. Death in Venice and Seven other Stories. New…[continue]
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