Study Guide

Death in Venice Chapter 1

By Thomas Mann

Chapter 1

  • Gustav von Aschenbach heads out one day to take a walk. After a morning of some serious writing, he's looking to calm his mind.
  • Aschenbach, noticing a storm is brewing, decides to wait for a tram near a cemetery.
  • He comes across a pretty strange dude hanging out there, and while Aschenbach doesn't know exactly what to make of him, he definitely seems hostile.
  • Seeing this guy gives Aschenbach the strange desire to travel and see exotic, far-off places.
  • Now, Aschenbach is pretty predictable—willy-nilly isn't his style—so, as the narrator remarks, this desire to travel is a little off the wall.
  • Aschenbach realizes it must be a desire to flee, to escape from all the discipline and duty.
  • The narrator has a field day describing Aschenbach's lack of pleasure in his work and his sense that his own demands are impossible to meet.
  • Deciding that he'll still travel, but maybe not go too far, Aschenbach finds a tram station and heads home.