Death in Venice

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The Disease Symbol Analysis

The Disease Symbol Icon
As Aschenbach stays in Venice, he begins to notice that more and more guests are leaving his hotel. The hotel barber mentions something about a disease to him, but no one is willing to explain anything more to him. In the city, he smells the medicinal scent of a germicide in the air, and becomes increasingly curious about the possible disease. All the Venetians he talks to, however, insist that the germicide is simply a preventative measure, because the excessively warm weather can be bad for people’s health. However, Aschenbach finally learns the truth from an Englishman at a British travel agency. The Englishman explains that Indian cholera, which originated in “the hot swamps of the Ganges delta,” has spread throughout the Mediterranean and is now in Venice, having already killed some people. Originating in an exotic location, the disease is treated mysteriously for most of the novella and, while it is never specified, it is perhaps the cause of Aschenbach’s own illness and death.
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The Disease Symbol Timeline in Death in Venice

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Disease appears in Death in Venice. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Repression, the Mind, and the Self Theme Icon the hotel seemed to be decreasing. His barber one day mentioned something about a disease, but when Aschenbach asked him more about it, he wouldn’t say anything. That afternoon, having... (full context)
Repression, the Mind, and the Self Theme Icon
...defended his behavior to himself. He was very interested in the news of a possible disease spreading around Venice and read about it in newspapers, though no one seemed to be... (full context)
Travel, Geography, and Climate Theme Icon
...sirocco (a warm wind) could be bad for people’s health. He said there was no disease in Venice. But immediately after this conversation, he was accosted by two hotel employees who... (full context)
Youth, Age, and Time Theme Icon
...went to a British travel agency in Venice and asked an Englishman about the possible disease in Venice. The man said the germicide was simply a preventative measure, but then said... (full context)
Repression, the Mind, and the Self Theme Icon
Travel, Geography, and Climate Theme Icon
...was likely. However, fearing the loss of tourism, the city was maintaining silence about the disease. (full context)
Repression, the Mind, and the Self Theme Icon
Beauty Theme Icon
Travel, Geography, and Climate Theme Icon
...Venice immediately for his own safety. Aschenbach thought of perhaps warning Tadzio’s family about the disease (and using that opportunity to “lay his hand in farewell” on Tadzio’s head. He suddenly... (full context)