Gustave von Aschenbach
Gustave von Aschenbach (GEW-stahf fon AH-shehn-bahch), a middle-aged German writer. Small, dark, his bushy gray hair, which is thinning on top, is brushed back on his overlarge head. His mouth is large, his cheeks lean and furrowed, and his prominent chin slightly cleft. He wears rimless gold glasses on his thick, aristocratically hooked nose, and his eyes are weary and sunken. A widower, he has one child, a married daughter. Precocious, Aschenbach early longed for fame, which he has achieved through several works acclaimed by the general public and the critics. He is not a born artist but has made himself one through rigorous discipline and unwavering dedication. A solitary man, he has only a superficial, limited knowledge of the real world. In cultivating his intellect, he has denied his feelings. His passion for Tadzio is symbolic of his narcissism, which first degrades and then destroys him. Aschenbach is a symbol of the artist in modern society.
Tadzio (TAHD-tsee-oh), a Polish boy of fourteen who possesses a classic beauty of face and form. To Aschenbach, his beautiful head seems that of Eros and the boy himself the essence of beauty. When Aschenbach almost touches Tadzio and then draws back in panic, the action symbolizes the artist’s fear of giving way to an emotion. Sometimes the artist...
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