Street Performer in Death of Venice

Lucy Wei
Ms. Choi
Period 7, page 249
March 8, 2010
Death Acceptance
The street performer, who resembles both the gondolier man and strange man at the cemetery, represents Aschenbach’s unknowingly acceptance of his own death. In “Death in Venice”, Thomas Mann’s character Aschenbach is watching the street performer, he observes how the man looks and how he acts, and while he does not realize, the street performer is very similar to both the man in the cemetery and the gondolier man. As Aschenbach scrutinizes, “He was a lean fellow, thin, and cadaverous in the face as well… with a shabby hat… and a quaff of his red hair bulging out under the brim” he adds on, “his skinny neck projected, displaying a remarkably large and naked Adam’s apple. His pallid snub nose face… his mobile mouth was rather strangely ill matched” (249). Aschenbach had described the man at the cemetery as “moderately tall, thin… remarkably snub nosed; he belonged to the red-haired type…. He wore a straw hat… the Adam’s apple stood out stark and bare on his lean neck” (196). These strikingly similar characters all symbolize Aschenbach’s death, but the street performer’s prescience specifically portrays Aschenbach’s subconscious acceptance of his death. The street performer does “a grotesque march round the scene, which brought him immediately below to where Aschenbach sat” (249). The ‘grotesque march’ can be compared to something like a death march or a funeral procession and since it ends up at Aschenbach’s table, it symbolizes that he is there to guide Aschenbach to his death.   The gondolier man plays a similar role but, at that time Aschenbach does not pay him, illustrating that he was not ready for death yet, but for the street performer he "quickly dropped a large coin into fellow’s hat” (250), which represents for paying his toll to go to the underworld. His payment, unknown to Aschenbach, is the acceptance of his own death, soon to occur in Venice.