Study Guide

Death in Venice What's Up With the Ending?

By Thomas Mann

What's Up With the Ending?

Whew. You made it. You got to the end of this crazy little book. Now, where does that leave us?

In the very last scene, Aschenbach is back on the beach, feeling feverish in his beach chair as he watches Tadzio play. He's briefly roused when a fight between Tadzio and his playmate turns violent and it seems like Tadzio is genuinely in danger. But after Tadzio frees himself from his attacker, he wades out into the ocean, and Aschenbach continues to watch him, imagining that the young boy is beckoning to him. A few minutes later, Aschenbach is found dead.

The ending of Death in Venice leaves us mostly with questions raised by Aschenbach's infatuation with Tadzio. Is Aschenbach simply a criminal with dirty thoughts about young boys? Or is his love for Tadzio really a tragic love of beauty, an artist's relationship to a muse, an ideal Aschenbach knows he can never attain? Death in Venice is not out to answer this, but in the end, preserves Aschenbach in a state of suspension.

So much like the other hotel guests who find Aschenbach dead in his beach chair, we the readers are only left with the fact of his death and the ambiguity of his desires. As for the questions we carry forward, well, we're just going to have to grapple with them for ourselves.