Is Death in Venice A Tragedy?
A critical and logical analysis of the novella Death in Venice makes me think otherwise on whether the death of Aschenbach was a tragedy. Though to some extent it seems true, the real cause of the death is not tragic, however. After examining the real cause of Aschenbach’s death, studying his character and lifestyle, I come to the conclusion that the death was not tragic. In this paper, I will discuss three points in details that support my position that the death of Aschenbach in the book Death in Venice was not tragic. His love for art and beauty, love for Tadzio and the desire to fulfill his life priority are the three major causes of his death. In that accord, therefore, whereas Aschenbach’s death seems tragic, a closer examination proves otherwise.
Aschenbach’s death was due to his love for art and beauty. The character has a great admiration of beauty and love for art. He is an artist and a workaholic like we see on page thirteen; “Thereforewhile in reality they had been built up in tiny daily portions from hundreds of inspirations.” The author spends quality time describing Aschenbach’s character so that the reader can have a clear and adequate knowledge on who he is. Through the description, Aschenbach is portrayed as a character who loves beauty and art, and this is evident throughout the book. Notably, Aschenbach’s character is exposed when he meets Tadzio, a fourteen years old Polish boy. When he sees Tadzio for the first time, he is stunned by his beauty, and this becomes the beginning of his new lifestyle and a major determinant of his eventual death. We are told on how he analyzed the boy’s beauty taking every single aspect and detail to the extent of comparing the boy with Eros, the roman god of love and other gods. The observations and encounters of the solitary and mute one are at the same time more blurry and more distinctive than that more sociable person. His admiration of the boy because of his beauty, putting aside the sexuality aspect of the matter, shows us that Aschenbach was trapped by his love of art and beauty and in his liking for Tadzio; he wants to enjoy the beauty. If the desire of his heart, to enjoy the beauty of life, cost him his life, this is not tragic because he was fulfilling it.
Aschenbach’s death was as a result of love for Tadzio. Though the cholera outbreak in Venice was the immediate cause of his death, the sickness does not make the story a tragedy. Since he had gotten all the information about the outbreak on time, he had a clear chance of running away and avoiding the disaster. However, we see him only thinking about Tadzio and wishing he had the guts to approach his mother and tell him to leave the place. Aschenbach had asked reasonably a number of people about the reality and truth of the disease which majority had affirmed. Therefore, if he wished to avoid death, he would have just packed and left for home immediately. He says to himself, “Please allow this stranger, madam, to give you advice and warning, kept from you by selfishness. Depart, depart right now with Tadzio and your daughters.” The emphasis on Tadzio shows his interest in the boy. This shows that Aschenbach has no interest in his own life, but all his interest has shifted to the life of Tadzio and only thinks on how to save him for if indeed he cared about his life, he would just depart Venice once he heard the truth form the Englishman. He wants to protect Tadzio, who is the image of the beauty that he so much cherish and adore. As an artist, beauty and art are the first things in his life and he tries to protect it even with his own life. Aschenbach has completely given into the beauty of Tadzio and the sickness is just an immediate cause of his death.
There is enough evidence in the novella that it is indeed the blindness of love that causes his death. Achenbach at one point looked at Tadzio as a lovely caller and the movement of the boy’s hand from the hips was like an invitation for him to follow. This shows how he was so much into the boy’s beauty to be able to think clearly about his life and the peril of death that lurked in the Venice air; due to the outbreak of cholera. The quote is another evidence of Achenbach giving in to beauty (which ultimately leads him to death.) This image is used to describe how he is welcoming his “lovely Summoner” and following him. Keeping in mind that Tadzio is the angel of death, since Achenbach pursued beauty in Tadzio, he is ready to follow death in Tadzio, as well.
Aschenbach’s death was caused by an ultimate desire to realize and follow his number one priority in life. Though the death of the main character is always a tragedy and so is any other loss of life, critical analysis of the novella, Death in Venice convinces me otherwise. Aschenbach was an artist who died in pursuit of his love. He loved art and beauty, and this was amplified when he met Tadzio in Venice. Despite the clear evidence of his homosexual behavior, Aschenbach’s admiration of the young polish boy, in this case, shall be considered in terms of love for art. The character becomes mad for Tadzio’s beauty which he compared to that of a god. In this pursuit, though Aschenbach becomes a slave of art and beauty and more so, he is completely addicted to the boy’s beauty. This goes to the extent of ignoring the fact of the cholera outbreak in Venice and thus jeopardizing his own life in the wish to save Tadzio; representation of beauty. It is in this mix that he, Aschenbach, contracts the disease and dies. When I think about what Achenbach dead for; I feel so glad that he died for one thing that he loved most, the beauty and the art. He dead with happiness; he followed the angle he pursued to another world.
In conclusion, therefore, despite the death of Aschenbach seeming tragic from a general perspective, deeper and closer critical evaluation and analysis may convince you otherwise. Though the reader feels sad for the death of Aschenbach, the character does not seem to regret his death. This is because of his love for beauty and art that was represented by Tadzio. Aschenbach was in a quest to fulfill his desire, but he never made it. In the end, he succumb to death but he did what his heart wanted to do, pursued what he wanted to pursue and fought for his love to his last breath. Therefore, even at his death point, he had done his best and had no regrets.
Mann, Thomas, Thomas S. Hansen, and Abby J. Hansen. Death in Venice. Boston: Lido Editions, 2012.