Death In Venice by Thomas Mann

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Death in Venice is an interesting book on the tragedy, and it relates to the Greek mythology in a manner that evokes the reader to pity with the protagonist. The book is a clear case of passion versus reason. Explicitly, Alford (2013, n.p.) notes that the the author takes readers through the struggles of the story’s antagonist as he tries to balance “love” with “morality,” which makes the story even more interesting.

In essence, the story is about Aschenbach, who is a washed-up writer and is trying to find his feet by going on a vacation to Venice. During the trip, and to his surprise, he meets a young, handsome polish boy. The boy’s physical “beauty” fascinates him, and thereby, as a writer, he decides to pursue this infatuation with the hope of finding something inspiring to write about.

However, his pursuits gradually morph into something more than mere curiosity. Aschenbach is obsessed. For instance, he goes against his principles and dies his hair, with the intention of looking young despite being an old man. This is a form of irony on the author’s part (Crace, 2011, n.p.). For instance, at the opening of the story, Aschenbach feels disgusted by old men trying to look young. Then, a few days later in Venice, he does the exact act of changing his hair to look attractive.        

Passion versus Morality

The dominant theme in this story is the struggle between passion and rational thinking. Aschenbach’s morality is being tested, and it fails miserably. However, the author does not take readers through an imagination of a possible relationship between Aschenbach and the little boy. In fact, the author concludes the story by relating it to Greek mythology, whereby most of which usually have some “lessons” to learn.

That is, Aschenbach’s death with cholera is an indication that he had wronged the gods for going against the norm, which is to pursue a young and innocent boy. It is agreeable to side with points raised by Hadjidemetri (2015, n.p.), whereby the Death in Venice leaves us wondering if Aschenbach was wrong for pursuing his desires, which are honest and true. The dilemma was for Aschenbach to either leave his passions and desires alone or follow what is expected of him by the society.

Moreover, the story provokes the debate on whether we should stand for what we believe in, and what we love. After all, Aschenbach’s desires and passions were “seconded” by a Greek god through his dream, which acted as his ticket to continue with his pursuits for his passion. Better yet, the boy’s frequent smile and welcoming gestures were enough to give Aschenbach enough confidence. That is, the boy was not against Aschenbach’s glances.

Conclusion – What is My Take?  

Despite being fiction, the book is undoubtedly a conflicting piece of work, and very discomforting to both the reader and the author himself (Crace, 2011, n.p.). In essence, at the very heart of this story, the author portrays some form of a cautionary tale concerning the dangers and vulnerabilities of extremes. The book depicts the dilemmas involved in our daily lives where we ought to maintain a sense of balance, especially whenever we are conducting ourselves.

Alford (2013, n.p.) reiterates by stating that the author, Thomas Mann, has shown readers an example of a man trying to live a perfect life, which is put to the test with passions of life. When Aschenbach is introduced to the story, he is an emotionally stable and well-courteous man, but all that crumbles when he meets his desire.


Alford, K. (2013). Book Review - Classics - My Personal Review of Death in Venice by Thomas Mann. [online] Available at:

Crace, J. (2011). Digested classics: Death in Venice by Thomas Mann. [online] The Guardian. Available at:


Hadjidemetri, A. (2015). BOOK REVIEW: Death in Venice by Thomas Mann (Review by John Purcell) - The Booktopian. [online] The Booktopian. Available at:

November 24, 2023

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