Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
The Magic Mountain is essentially a bildungsroman, the story of the education and spiritual development of a single character. The individual in this case is Hans Castorp, a young engineer who, before assuming his position in a shipbuilding firm, decides to go to a sanatorium to visit his cousin Joachim, a soldier who is recovering from tuberculosis. At the sanatorium, a spot is detected on one of Castorp’s lungs, and he decides to stay for a few weeks to take some treatments. Weeks stretch into months, and Castorp remains at the sanatorium long after Joachim has gone. In fact, Castorp stays for a total of seven years. The disease that is really afflicting Castorp, however, is a spiritual malaise. Castorp encounters a wide range of characters at the sanatorium, each of whom has an effect on him. Shortly before the end of his stay, Castorp finds himself hallucinating while hiking after a severe snowstorm. This hallucination serves as a catalyst for Castorp’s decision to reenter the world, which he does by volunteering for military service in World War I. The impression is left with the reader that Castorp’s reintegration into the world is ambivalent at best.
The Magic Mountain shows to great effect Mann’s use of physical disease as a metaphor for spiritual malaise. At its very worst, Castorp’s tuberculosis is a mild case. His decision to stay at the sanatorium is, in reality, a flight from the duties and mundanities of the...
(The entire section is 899 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Magic Mountain Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Hans Castorp is advised by his doctor to go to the mountains for a rest. Accordingly, he decides to visit his cousin, Joachim Ziemssen, a soldier by profession, who is a patient in the International Sanatorium Berghof at Davos-Platz in the mountains of Switzerland. He plans to stay there for three weeks and then return to his home in Hamburg. Hans has just passed his examinations and is now a qualified engineer; he is eager to get started in his career. His cousin’s cure at the sanatorium is almost complete. Hans thinks Joachim looks robust and well.
At the sanatorium, Hans soon discovers that the ordinary notions of time do not exist. Day follows day almost unchangingly. He meets the head of the institution, Dr. Behrens, as well as the other patients, who sit in particular groups at dinner. There are two Russian tables, for example, one of which is known to the patients as the bad Russian table. A couple who sits at that table has the room next to Hans. Through the thin partitions, he can hear them—even in the daytime—chase each other around the room. Hans is rather revolted, inasmuch as he can hear every detail of their lovemaking.
One patient interests Hans greatly, a merry Russian woman, supposedly married, named Clavdia Cauchat. Every time she comes into the dining room she bangs the door, which annoys Hans a great deal. Hans also meets the Italian Settembrini, a humanist writer and philosopher. Settembrini introduces him to a Jew,...
(The entire section is 1021 words.)