Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Düsseldorf. City on the Rhine River in western Germany’s Ruhr region, which was the nation’s industrial heart in the 1920’s. At one point in the narrative, the characters, who live in the best part of the city, unwittingly pass through a district given over to industry and lined with workers’ houses, an area they usually avoid. The genteel Düsseldorf described in the novella is a place of tree-lined streets and rows of apartment buildings with ornamented facades. It could be any provincial city in Germany during the 1920’s; as one character notes, it lacks the sophistication of Berlin or Munich. Nevertheless, it seems exactly the right place for the unfolding of Frau Rosalie von Tümmler’s poignant story. Like the city she inhabits, she is ordinary and provincial, yet possesses a touch of beauty and gentility.

Mann himself spent time in Düsseldorf, where, according to his biographers, he engaged in a homoerotic affair with a young man.


*Ruhr. The western German landscape that Frau Tümmler so loves stands in sharp contrast with the area’s industrialization, where weapons factories, steel mills, and coal mines dominate. Although crisscrossed with the heaviest concentration of railways in the world, the Ruhr has rich soil and a temperate climate that nurture such an abundance of trees and shrubbery and flowers that they tend to obscure the traces of heavy industry. In...

(The entire section is 567 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Feuerlicht, Ignace. Thomas Mann. New York: Twayne, 1968. A brief treatment of The Black Swan in chapter 9 calls for a broader, more sympathetic reception. Views the story structurally as a novella—with its trademark turning point, dominant image, and strange occurrence—and not as a short story.

Latta, Alan. “The Reception of Thomas Mann’s Die Betrogene: Tabus, Prejudices, and Tricks of the Trade.” Internationales Archiv für Sozialgeschichte der Deutschen Literatur 12 (1987): 237-272. Painstakingly thorough studies of the novella’s reception, including detailed documentation.

Latta, Alan. “The Reception of Thomas Mann’s Die Betrogene: Part II, The Scholarly Reception.” Internationales Archiv für Sozialgeschichte der Deutschen Literatur 18 (1993): 123-156. Latta demonstrates how the initial lack of understanding for the novella has been superseded in recent years by more open, thoughtful, and less taboo-determined interpretations.

Mileck, Joseph. “A Comparative Study of Die Betrogene and Der Tod in Venedig.” Modern Language Forum 42 (December, 1957): 124-129. Though Mann himself claimed these novellas are unrelated, Mileck compares the theme of death through love (Liebestod) in both novellas.

Schoolfield, George C. “Thomas Mann’s Die Betrogene.” In Thomas Mann, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1986. A scholarly, positive, and balanced treatment of the work, though it does not reflect the feminist concerns of more recent readings. Excellent on influences and the mythological background of the characters.

Straus, Nina Pelikan. Introduction to The Black Swan, by Thomas Mann, translated by Willard R. Trask. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990. A female-centered, though not necessarily a feminist, positive reading of the novella. An excellent place to begin an in-depth interpretive study. Contains a brief description of earlier negative readings. No notes or bibliography.