Hans Castorp (hahns KAHS-tohrp), a young German of middle-class and commercial background. He is a sedate, sensible, correct young man, appreciative of good living, but without particular ambition or aspiration. This spiritual lack, Mann suggests, is allied to physical illness. About to enter a shipbuilding firm, Hans goes to make a three-week visit at the International Sanatorium Berghof, where his cousin is a patient. There, he learns that he himself has contracted tuberculosis, and he spends seven years at the sanatorium. Spiritually unattached to his own time and place, he resigns himself rather easily to his new role as an inmate of the “magic mountain,” where the spiritual conflicts and defects of modern Europe are polarized and where time and place are allied to eternity and infinity. His experience takes on the significance of a spiritual journey. He is exposed to a threadbare version of Western liberalism and rationalism (in the person of Settembrini); to the lure of irrational desire (in the person of Madame Chauchat); to Catholic absolutism and mysticism (in the person of Naphta, whose arguments with Settembrini make up a large part of the second portion of the novel). Finally (in the person of Mynheer Peeperkorn), he feels the attraction of a strong, vital personality that makes the intellectual strife of Settembrini and Naphta sound quite hollow. Lost in a snowstorm that quickly becomes a symbol of his passage through uncharted spiritual regions, Hans attains a vision of an earthly paradise and of blood sacrifice—the two opposed forces life has revealed to him—and he achieves a further revelation of the importance of goodness and love. Ironically, after he returns to the sanatorium, he forgets; the vision has literally led him beyond himself and his capacity. He now dabbles in spiritualism and, in a famous passage, also soothes himself with romantic music that, he feels, contains at its heart the death wish. It is a snatch of this music that Hans has on his lips when, at the conclusion of the novel, he is glimpsed on a battlefield of World War I.
Ludovico Settembrini (lew-doh-FEE-koh seh-tehm-BREE-nee), an Italian humanist, man of letters, apostle of reason, progress, equality, and the brotherhood of man, as well as a fiery Italian nationalist....
(The entire section is 996 words.)