Death in Venice

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The slight narrative of Gustav von Aschenbach’s stay in late 19th century Venice is inconsequential in itself. The events, though, serve to introduce ideas surrounding the nature of art and the artist. It is this symbolic presentation that lends the work richness and significance.

After years of uninterrupted writing, Aschenbach wishes to get away from Munich for a time. He goes eventually to Venice, a city entirely different. Although en route he meets the specter of death in various disguises, once settled in the elegant Lido hotel, he feels safe.

A Polish family staying at the same hotel has a 14-year-old son named Tadzio, whom Aschenbach beholds as the personification of pure and perfect beauty. His admiration turning to obsession, he follows the boy throughout Venice. Yet they never communicate directly. When cholera strikes the city, Aschenbach the pursuer (the artist) and Tadzio the pursued (art) move toward their inevitable doom.

It had been said of Aschenbach that he faced and lived life like a closed fist. To hold fast, to maintain discipline, and to synthesize his experience into art had forever served as his strict guides. While the outside world believes he keeps these standards to the very end, he had in secret finally loosened the strong hold on his passions when he set out in Venice to pursue pure beauty in the perfect form of Tadzio. On the beach watching Tadzio go into the waves, he at last witnesses at...

(The entire section is 593 words.)