This chapter focuses on Gustav von Aschenbach, the main character in Death in Venice. It asks: Does he succeed in fitting the disparate elements of his identity together? Is his life invalidated by his capitulation to the lure of beauty? Must the artist inevitably succumb to that lure? For Mann, these were crucial questions, and the creation of Aschenbach was part of his long exploration of them, part of his lifelong endeavor to put himself on trial. The chapter suggests that the elaborate trappings of Death in Venice, the echoes of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, allusions to Greek mythology and play with Socratic dialogues, are disguises Mann used to mask a more basic story about the social distortion of sexuality and its costs. Freed from the conventional prejudices Mann accurately ascribed to his contemporaries, readers today can recognize the novella for what it is.
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