Water Symbolism In Death In Venice

1067 Words5 Pages
Water, Water, Everywhere! Death in Venice, a novella by German author Thomas Mann, tells the extraordinary story of a conservative author trying to find a balance between societal expectations and the decadence that he craves. Gustav von Aschenbach, who is said to be loosely based on Mann himself, struggles in his quest for personal satisfaction on the streets on Venice, but things don’t always turn out the way he thinks. With the use of deep metaphors, philosophical allegories, and colorful imagery, Mann is able to paint a vivid picture of life and longing that continues to stand the test of time. One of the most suggestive imageries employed in Death in Venice is that of water. Water serves many roles in the story, from travel to cultural necessity to a source of deep reflection. But this crucial image serves purposes even more profound that loom below the surface, begging for analysis. Thomas Mann uses water in Death in Venice to symbolize both fertility and decay. The first mentioning of water in Death in Venice comes within the opening pages of the novella. Soon after the reader is introduced to Gustav von Aschenbach, Mann describes the writers desire to experience the “wonders and terrors of the manifold earth” (Mann 97). Aschenbach becomes immersed in his imaginings of an exotically erotic swampland, filled with pictures of both flourishing life and decadent death. The passage is crawling with images of lush fertility, the ripe green canals flowing with a blooming prospect of life. But Mann also conjures up a feeling of danger and decay in his passage, using words like “monstrous,” “primeval,” and “terror” (Mann 97) in describing the bleak scene. This lush and mysterious landscape petrifies Aschenbach, but entices him nonetheless; the scene seems to embody everything that the well-to-do writer wishes to know. This panorama encapsulates the protagonist’s
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