Study Guide

Death in Venice Chapter 4

By Thomas Mann

Chapter 4

  • Aschenbach's lost luggage returns, but he decides to stay longer; the weather in Venice has changed for the better.
  • Aschenbach has been seeing quite a bit of Tadzio. He wakes up early, heads down to the beach, and waits for Tadzio to arrive—and then Aschenbach watches the boy all day.
  • At this point, the narrator starts to take over, describing scenes and images that aren't necessarily "happening" in the story. The narrator briefly depicts a conversation between Socrates and Phaedrus, about beauty and lust. (Check out "Shout Outs" for more.)
  • Aschenbach finally gets the urge to start writing. He will eventually write an essay about Tadzio's beauty, according to the narrator, and this is the moment when he gets his inspiration.
  • The next morning, Aschenbach spots Tadzio at the beach again, and is overcome with a desire to speak with him.
  • Aschenbach tries to follow Tadzio without being noticed, but falters just when he's about to talk to him—he feels a bit ridiculous because of how afraid he is of attracting suspicious attention.
  • At this point, the narrator tells us, Aschenbach is obviously staying put in Venice. He has had money transferred, he's getting a nice tan, he's enjoying doing absolutely no work on his writing, and—shocker—Tadzio is pretty much all he can think about.
  • Eventually, Tadzio seems to start noticing all the attention he's getting from Aschenbach. Now and then, the narrator reports, their eyes will meet just as Tadzio is walking by. But it goes no further than that.
  • One evening, Aschenbach is anxiously waiting around to see if the Polish family will come to dinner. When they (with Tadzio) arrive unexpectedly, Aschenbach can't keep himself from giving the boy a look that shows how happy he is to see him. In response, Tadzio smiles.
  • Aschenbach hurries away, feeling like this smile is some kind of "fatal gift" (4.20).