Thomas Mann Analysis

Jordan Nachbar
World Literature
Mrs. Susan Schliep
30 April 2012
Thomas Mann: A Life of Reflection
      Thomas Mann’s writing consisted of three main characteristics: (1) theme, specifically the contrast between spirit and life, (2) the use of leitmotifs and musical parallels, and (3) comedy and satire.
      The first important characteristic of Mann’s work is the reoccurring search for “spiritual meaning in one’s life, and the dichotomy between spirit (Geist) and life (Leben)” (Barricelli). Mann’s concern for the “spiritual” aspect of life led him to incorporate his philosophical thought into his writing. He understood the idea of Geist as the “battle between the life-energy known as the will and the struggle of the saint, the artist, the individual of refinement to subdue, deny, or otherwise contain the will’s destructive tendencies within society” (Barricelli). Due to Mann’s personal history, he related to this idea authentically because Mann himself was both a member of the upper bourgeoisie and creative artists classes via his differing parents. As a result, most of Mann’s earliest stories revolve around the problems of the “creative artist” who struggles with the meaninglessness of existence, yet at the same time, Mann’s works highlight a longing for the ordinary life (Hilger). Mann’s writing emphasizes the problems mankind faces in the twentieth century, such as World War Two, the lost of personal and cultural identity, and the infliction of totalitarian governments on modern society (Hilger). According to Barricelli, Mann “struggled to bridge the gap in his writing between the body and spirit, and as a result, his writings are extraordinarily complex and filled with metaphors and other types of allusions.”
      The second characteristic of Mann’s writing is his usage of the leitmotif and musical parallels. According to the literary dictionary at Carson Newman University, a leitmotif originally was coined by Hans von Wolzuegen to “designate a...