The Apollonian and the Dionysian in Death in Venice
Thomas Mann seems to surround Aschenbach with Greek gods in his novella Death in Venice. The Apollonian and Dionysian viewpoints are derived from the Greek gods Apollo and Dionysus. Apollo and Dionysus are both the sons of Zeus who is the king of gods, ruler of Mount Olympus also known as the god of the sky and thunder. Apollo is the god of sun or light and stands for things like reason and intellect while his brother Dionysus is the god of wine representing unreason and passion. Von Aschenbach initially embodies the Apollonian principle but in the end loses himself to the Dionysian (Death 1).
Gustav Von Aschenbach, a very popular writer who has recently entered his 50’s, has so far lived an Apollonian life. Strolling around a cemetery one day caused him to cross paths with a strange red-haired man. Embarrassed yet curious Aschenbach leaves the cemetery. At this point of his life Dionysus has been introduced because shortly after he decides to take a trip. Venice, Italy became his destination reserving a suite in the Grand hotel des Baines. The town catches the writer’s eye in amazement. He loves the grouping of the buildings and sees it as a city built upon a swamp with canals for streets. The location is a tourist attraction known for its beaches, warm climate and sensuous decadence. “Mann utilizes the sea's symbolic link to sex, death, and chaos to show how von Aschenbach is drawn inexorably towards it, and away from the solid footing of land,” (Semansky 1). En route his path has once again been crossed by another red-haired man this being his gondolier. A slight connection can be made with the red-haired men. Aschenbach, unaware of what was going on, seems to be trailed by none other than one of Dionysus’s followers Silenus. Silenus is taking the disguise of these red-haired persons that way to observe Aschenbach (Gullette 1).
Finally he arrives to his hotel and at dinner notices an adolescent boy...