Study Guide

Death in Venice Foreignness and "The Other"

By Thomas Mann

Foreignness and "The Other"

Where do we start on this one? The threat and allure of the exotic "other" is one of the most central themes in Death in Venice. Aschenbach is, after all, a tourist, one who's first drawn to visit Venice by a vivid vision of an exotic, "primordial wilderness." Venice is hardly "primordial," but it does become the perfect backdrop for Aschenbach's discovery of the "wilderness" within, the "other" that is his sexual desire for Tadzio.

Oh, and let's not forget those strange guys Aschenbach encounters along the way—we'll have plenty to say about them here, but if you want more, be sure to swing by the "Characters" section.

Questions About Foreignness and "The Other"

  1. Can we consider Tadzio an "other" for Aschenbach? Why or why not?
  2. How is a connection drawn between disgust, the grotesque, and depictions of "otherness" in Death in Venice?
  3. What do you think about the depiction of cholera as a foreign disease that has invaded and corrupted Europe? Does this depict non-European people in a negative light?
  4. What is the significance of the metaphor of "primordial wilderness" for Aschenbach's story?

Chew on This

Death in Venice portrays the encounter with "otherness" as both a creative and destructive experience, in which old ideals are broken and new ones become possible.

The role of the "other" in Death in Venice has less to do with actual foreignness and foreign places, and more to do with Aschenbach's discovery of "otherness" within himself—i.e. his sexual desire.