“The Magic Mountain”, analysis of the novel by Thomas Mann

The novel “The Magic Mountain” grew out of a satirical novel that Thomas Mann decided to write after visiting one of Davos sanatoriums, where his wife Katya was being treated at that time. The main idea of the work was to make fun of human inability to real life and, as a result, the flight of the individual into illness. Work on the “The Magic Mountain” was started in 1912, interrupted by the First World War and again resumed in 1920. The two-volume novel was released in 1924 by S. Fisher.

The original idea remained in “The Magic Mountain” in the image of the protagonist – twenty-two-year-old engineer Hans Castorp, who arrived at the Berggof sanatorium to visit his cousin, a patient with tuberculosis, Joachim Zimsen. Unnoticed by a young man, a three-week vacation turns into a seven-year period of treatment of small “wet foci”. Raised by a cousin, Hans Castorp is portrayed by the author as a “simpleton,” more likely to do nothing than work. A decent rent left after the death of the parents, and a “good reason” in the form of an illness, open up for the main character a unique opportunity to be who he is – that is, no one: a person who lives on a strictly routine basis, eats tasty, falls in love, has fun and students.

In terms of genre, “The Magic Mountain” refers not only to a satirical beginning, but also combines psychological traits (thoughts about a person’s death drive, detailed descriptions of the protagonist’s love experiences, etc.), everyday (attention to details, story about the structure of the life of the Berghof sanatorium), historical (the heroes’ arguments about politics, the fate of Europe at the beginning of the 20th century, the mention of the First World War), philosophical (the problem of time, life and death, health and disease, good and bad) and upbringing (Hans Castorp ka student perceptions liberalists-Mason Settimbrini and Jesuit-conservative NAFTA).

The author himself calls his work “a novel about time.” Time in The Magic Mountain is considered by Thomas Mann from all possible points of view:

– time of the novel: according to the author, this is both real time for which the text is read, and artistic time, which has practically unlimited possibilities (stop, stretch, contract, interrupt, etc.);
– historical time (the program will take epochs, the mention of certain historical events);
– time as a physical substance and a characteristic of the objective world.

Thomas Mann explores time through his inner perception of man. In the novel, time is related to space: both a great distance and a long time allow Hans Kastorp to abandon his usual connections and plunge into a new place for him, society and condition. “Sanatorium” (“hospital”) time is contrasted in “Magic Mountain” to the “flat” (life) time of a healthy person: according to Joachim Zimsen, time in “Berghof” “flies and stretches,” but mostly “stands still” . This is due to the fact that life in the mountains freezes in its constantly repeating events (eating, lying in the air, seeing doctors, etc.), while “life down there brings so much change in a year” (opinion of Frau Sher ) For drunk Hans Castorp, time ceases to exist at all, while in a sober state he measures it through the joys that are given to him by life during the day – for example, by smoking his beloved cigar.

An attempt to comprehend the time (for example, when measuring the temperature) slows down the course of minutes, while the time spent without thinking about it “sweeps just instantly” (seven days at Berghof). Talking about time, Hans Castorp, firstly, refuses to define him as “essence”, and secondly, elevates him to the rank of subjective quantities: “If it seems long to a person, it means long, and if it is short, then it is short but how long or short it really is – nobody knows that. ” Measuring time through space (moving the arrow on the dial), according to the protagonist, does not make sense, since all the same space can not be measured by time: for example, the real journey from Hamburg to Davos takes twenty hours by train, much more time by foot and less than a second in thoughts.

The fullness or emptiness of time, only at first glance, affects its perception by a person: the widespread opinion that interesting events speed up time, and boring ones delay time, concerns only small quantities; a large amount of empty time tends to sweep fast, and filled with impressions – they drag incredibly slowly. The speeding up of time can also be connected with the expectation of something important by a person: for example, Hans Castorp, who is waiting for the next Sunday meeting with his lover at the post office, “swallows” a week like a glutton that eats without noticing the value of the food.

The theme of love in the novel is connected with the image of the young Russian patient Claudia Shosh, in whom not only the main character falls in love, but also other patients. The girl herself chooses in her temporary companions a rich coffee planter – the Dutchman Peter Peperkorn. The latter embodies the idea of hedonism in his image: Peperkorn, suffering from tropical fever, even in his illness builds his life to enjoy it – he eats deliciously, drinks a lot, enjoys all people without exception and loves with his whole being.

The Italian writer Lodovico Setimbrini correlates in “The Magic Mountain” with freedom, revolution, and the desire to renew the world order. His ideological opponent – the conservative Nafta, on the contrary, stands on the position of the inviolability of traditional values. Together they represent Reason and are antagonists of Peter Peperkorn and Claudia Shosh, which are an expression of the Sensual beginning of life. Hans Castorp does not belong to either side: he seeks to know, but not one of the ideas heard captures him too deeply; he falls in love with a lovely woman, but she almost does not reciprocate him. Over time, the protagonist, like most patients of the sanatorium, takes possession of the “demon of stupidity”, to cope with which is only under the power of the War, tearing him to the plain and throwing him into the thick of life and death.

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