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Archives > Q2 Mythology and motifs from classical antiquity

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message 1: by Book (new)

Book Wormy | 1845 comments Mod
Mythology and motifs from classical antiquity play a central role in Mann's story. Identify as many of the mythological and classical references as possible and try to illuminate their relevance for the text. Do they fit together into a coherent pattern? Do they elucidate different aspects of Aschenbach's life and death?


message 2: by Eadie (new)

Eadie (eadieburke) The stranger in the cemetery in the beginning of the novella, with his straw hat and ironed-tipped cane, reminds Aschenbach of Hermes. Hermes is the Greek god who guides souls into the underworld and serves as a messenger of impending death. When Aschenbach finally meets his end, Tadzio, like Hermes, seems to lead Aschenbach into the underworld.

There are references to the Socrates/Phaidros relationship, an example of Platonic love between an older mentor and younger student.

There are references to Dionysus, who is the eastern god of intoxication, rapture and chaos. He appears as “the stranger god” in the dream that makes Aschenbach want to stray away to another location. Aschenbach’s thoughts and actions become controlled by “that dark god whose pleasure it is to trample man’s intoxicating rapture and chaos."


message 3: by Book (new)

Book Wormy | 1845 comments Mod
I think Eadie has pretty much covered this question :)


message 4: by Sushicat (new)

Sushicat | 292 comments Yup, nothing much to add.


message 5: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Robitaille | 900 comments Ditto


message 6: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1608 comments Mod
At the center of the novel is the struggle between reason and passion/desire. In mythological terms, it is a struggle between Apollo (reason & intellectual pursuits) and Dionysus (emotion/desire/passion). The two concepts are in constant conflict throughout the novel. Both are seen as related to the arts although to different sides of the arts (as I put in my parenthesis above). Aschenbach is in the midst of a writer's block, bound by rationality and reason and rigidity. When he sees Tadzio he swings to the other extreme, led by desire and passion.

Here's a quote that illustrates:
"you have to realize that we artists cannot take the path of beauty without Eros joining us and becoming our leader; we may be heroes in our own way but we are still like women, because passion is what elevates us, and our desire is love - that is our lust and our disgrace. Do you see that poets can be neither sage nor dignified? That we always stray, adventurer in our emotions?...

Tadzios is the primary symbol of beauty. He is described as "reminiscent of Greek statues" and "like the statue of the Boy with Thorn. Aschenbach also calls Tadzios his "Phaeacian" referring to the people Odysseus visits on his way home from Trojan war.

There are also multiple mentions of Eros and Elysium. Other references include Poseidon's horses, Pan's creatrues, Hyacinth, Zephyr, the Delphi oracle, Narcissus.


message 7: by Kristel (new)

Kristel (kristelh) | 3892 comments Mod
I think the subject has been well covered by Eadie and Jen. Nice job!


message 8: by Pip (new)

Pip | 1342 comments I would like to emphasise Eadie's point about Platonic love. Plato's idea about Eros being intellectual and uplifting, rather than sexual and degrading, is an important theme. Aschenbach is ambivalent to begin with but ultimately loses his dignity and his life in an un-Platonic way.


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