Venice – a lagoon city. There is hardly any city characterised by such opposing attributes as Venice. Many may consider Venice to be the city of love and a senic gem on the water, novels and films usually paint a different picture. The city frequently appears morbid, mysterious and dark. During winter and autumn fog occupies the whole city. Venice is used by many authors as a backdrop to create an environment of suspense and death. Venice is an allegory of death, decay and rot. The city itself represents the literary synonym of the deterioration of the architectural wonder.
Venice represents the sensuous south that stands in stark contrast to Aschenbach’s serious native Germany; furthermore the setting of Venice is symbolic in this novella. The physical journey of Aschenbach from culture to another and from one climate to the other is in parallel with his internal descent from cool control to fiery passion. Venice in particular is symbolic for Aschenbach himself as Venice is famous for its exceptional and its bold constructions. Built in the middle of a lagoon, and preserved by pure determination over the forces of Mother Nature. Much like Venice, Aschenbach believes that art can conquer physical needs and natural impulses, and he has demonstrated this through his numerous art forms. Though Venice is magnificent, it cannot be denied that it is a city that is gradually sinking, and decaying from within. This, once again can be said about Aschenbach’s morals.
The use of Venice as the setting in Mann’s work does not appear to be a co-incidence. Mann’s intention may have been to reinforce the atmosphere of atrophy and deterioration in Gustave Aschenbach’s life through the underlying character of the city. The Venice used in this novella is one infested with cholera, a pestilence that has been hidden so as to elude the otherwise inevitable public agitation. One interesting facet of the work that must be observed here is that it is this exact sentiment that is echoed in Aschenbach’s fervent belief that his implied homosexual inspiration must be kept secret.
Even before Aschenbach arrives in Venice, we see that there are many incidents that foreshadow death through the setting of the novella. Right from the beginning of the novella, Death in Venice establishes an ominous tone. The terrible political condition; the storm, and the menacing look of the stranger (his “red” hair suggesting the devil) foreshadow impending dangers. Thoughts of death are introduced to the reader through the descriptions of the gravestones and mortuary. The Byzantine architecture of (“Funeral chapel with its Byzantine architecture” ) the Fohringer Chausser with its Greek lettering introduces the motif of the classical world, which will pervade the novella. It also foreshadows the destruction of Aschenbach morals and his impending death.
As he approaches Venice, he mentions that the “Sky was grey, wind was damp.” This clearly foreshadows Aschenbach’s impending death as he...