Study Guide

Death in Venice Lust

By Thomas Mann


Full disclosure: We're not talking about sex, here. Nopeā€”it's all about lust in this story, that longing for another person that can seemingly come out of nowhere and dramatically change your sense of self. In Death in Venice, Aschenbach's desire for Tadzio develops from an artist's admiration of an "exquisite work of nature" (3.55) into full-blown erotic infatuation, transforming Aschenbach along the way from a disciplined, old-school writer into, well, something more like a modern artist.

Questions About Lust

  1. How does Death in Venice relate the desire to see exotic places with erotic desire?
  2. In what ways is Aschenbach's illicit lust portrayed as repulsive, and in what ways does it help us to humanize him?
  3. What role does vision play in the unfolding relationship between Aschenbach and Tadzio, and what does vision have to do with lust?
  4. How is Venice portrayed in a way that makes it the perfect location for a story about illicit lust?

Chew on This

Death in Venice is a psychological exploration of the role of sexual desire in the life of the modern artist, with the aim of unsettling certain ideals of the artistic life.

Representations of Venice in Death in Venice reflect the "dark side" of beauty and other romantic ideals, just as Aschenbach's sexual desire for Tadzio points toward the role of lust in artistic creation.