Albert Camus Essay
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How Aschenbach and Meursault in Death in Venice and The Stranger respectively, are driven by mind initially then change to being driven by the heart as the result of a key event In both The Stranger and Death in Venice, the characters change as the book progresses. There is mainly one action that sparks this drastic change. In The Stranger, this action is the murder of Raymond’s mistress’ brother, and in Death in Venice this critical moment occurs when Aschenbach has the sudden urge to travel.
Aschenbach and Meursault are both characters that move from one extreme to the other. They begin as characters who make decisions based solely on what their mind tells them. As the novel develops, these characters move to the other extreme, which is making decisions based solely on what their heart tells them. This transition from extreme logical thinking to extreme emotional thinking is what leads to the downfall of both Aschenbach and Meursault. As the novel begins, Thomas Mann introduces Aschenbach as a fairly likable German writer.
Initially the reader sees Aschenbach as a normal character anyone can relate to. He lives a very stable life, and has never traveled before. Aschenbach is a character who is extremely involved in his work and one who organizes his entire life based on how he can best achieve quality in his work. At this point in the novel Aschenbach makes all his decisions using his mind rather than his heart. While taking a stroll, Aschenbach sees a man with red hair as well as long teeth.
It is this man that pushes his mind in to traveling. Aschenbach begins to change as soon as he sets his mind to travel. In his daydream regarding his adventure he envisions a “… landscape, a tropical swampy region under a vapor-laden sky, damp, luxuriant and uncanny; it was like the portrait of a primitive world of islands morasses and slit-laden rivers” (pg 3, Mann). The symbol of Aschenbach’s departure on this journey is the sign of the beginning of his decline.
It is from this point on that Aschenbach transforms from being a normal man who makes logical decisions with is brain, to one that makes decisions with his heart. As Aschenbach’s journey progresses, he notices many men with red hair and long white teeth like the one that inspired him to travel. This shows the constant rapid declining of Aschenbach. His first sight of Tadzio in the hotel marks the beginning of the extreme heart-driven Aschenbach. His description of Tadzio clearly portrays his obsession. “With astonishment Aschenbach observed that the boy was perfectly beautiful.
His face, pale and charmingly secretive with the honey-colored hair curling around it, with its straight-sloping nose, its lovely mouth and its expression of sweet and divine earnestness recalled Greek statues of the noblest period, and, along with its extremely pure perfection of form, it was of such unique personal charm that the onlooker thought he had never come across anything so felicitous either in nature or in art” (pg 20, Mann). Once Aschenbach begins to follow Tadzio’s every step, the reader notices that Aschenbach is becoming more and more indulged in Tadzio’s life rather than his own.
“His head and his heart were drunk, and his steps followed the dictates of that dark god whose pleasure it is to trample man’s reason and dignity underfoot”. Even when Aschenbach learns of an epidemic, he realizes that if he dies along with Tadzio, they will be able to meet in heaven. Aschenbach loses total control of his mind and gives in to Venice, a “city, half fairy tale and half tourist trap, in whose insalubrious air the arts once rankly and voluptuously blossomed, where composers have been inspired to lulling tones of somniferous eroticism.
” Even when given the opportunity to leave Venice and escape cholera, his love for Tadzio weighs him down. Aschenbach then has fantasies about everyone else dying, and him being left alone with Tadzio. Now it can be clearly seen that Aschenbach’s passion is coming directly from the heart, and no thinking is being done on his part. This extreme obsession from Aschenbach’s heart immediately leads to his downfall. He dies in his chair, and it is hours before anyone notices. Albert Camus introduces Meursault as a character people are quite taken aback by.