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CharactersGustav von Aschenbach - An aging writer, honorable, fastidious, and repressed, of high public status in Germany. He travels to Venice and stays in a hotel where the beautiful boy Tadzio is also a guest. As he gives way to his repressed sexuality and falls in love with Tadzio while embracing beauty and the sensual side of art, he also abandons morality and dignity, abandoning himself to passion, decadence, and ultimately death. Tadzio - An intensely beautiful Polish boy of about fourteen. He stays with his mother, sisters, and governess at the same hotel in Venice as Gustav von Aschenbach. Tadzio is pure and innocent but also aware of Aschenbach's interest in him. Jashu- Tadzio's closest companion at the hotel. He seems to idolize Tadzio, acting as his "vassal." Jashu has glossy black hair, a sturdy build, and a rowdy temperament, serving as a polar opposite to Tadzio. Chapter 1SummaryGustav von Aschenbach is an aging, nationally renowned writer living alone in Munich. The year is unspecified, but it falls within the early 1900s,and is described as "the year in which...so grave a threat seemed to hang over the peace of Europe." One morning, after a particularly demanding session of writing, Aschenbach goes on a walk to clear his mind. A storm begins to brew, and the writer turns homeward; he passes through empty streets past the stonemasons' yards, where the headstones for sale constitute a sort of graveyard, and stops to read the gilt lettering on a Byzantine mortuary chapel referring to the afterlife. Here, he suddenly notices a strange-looking man with red hair, dressed as a tourist. The man has a grimace that displays his long white teeth and gums, and Aschenbach realizes that the man is staring back at him aggressively. Though the meeting comes to nothing, the encounter stirs in Aschenbach a sudden desire to travel to foreign lands.In a sort of daydream, Aschenbach vividly envisions a tropical swampland described in highly charged language evoking a sense of combined fertility and decay, eroticism, and the grotesque. He quickly masters his state of wanderlust,however, and returns to his habitual mindset-one of willful efficiency,
moderation, and fastidious self-discipline. He believes perfectionism to be the essence of artistic talent and that excessive passion impedes a writer's pursuit of excellence. However, thinking that his work might benefit from an element of inspired improvisation, he finally decides that a short vacation might improve his productivity. Looking again for the red-haired man, Aschenbach finds that he has vanished as suddenly and mysteriously as he had appeared.CommentaryFrom its opening sentences, Death in Veniceestablishes an ominous tone. The descriptions of the dire political situation, the storm, and the menacing-looking stranger (his red hair suggesting the devil) foretell impending dangers. Specifically, the gravestones and mortuary introduce thoughts of death. The