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Thomas Mann - The Magic Mountain (1924) - Study Guide

Short Description

Der Zauberberg: Roman
Type of Work - Novel
Original Language German

A young bourgeois man visits his cousin in a mountain sanitarium where he 'falls ill' and struggles with the opposing forces of rationalism, faith, aestheticism, and common sense embodied by the other patients before rushing into World War I. The novel depicts the various cultural and intellectual currents swirling around in the soul of pre-World War I Europe.


The Hans Castorp goes to visit his cousin Joachim, a solider, in a mountain santiarium. Hans is fascinated by the bizarre atmosphere of the place and right before leaving, is diagnosed and becomes a resident himself. Hans quickly adjusts to the bizaree flow of time and atmosphere of sickness of the place. He introduced to the manners and social life of sanitarium by Setembrini, a humanist, who involves Hans in his discussions with his diametrically opposed friend Naphta, a absolutist Jewish Jesuit. Hans becomes infatuated with Clavdia, an exotic Russian woman. During a festive night, Hans confesses his love but fails to win Clavdia who leaves the sanitarium shortly after. Joachim, frusrated by his endless delayed release, leaves against his doctor’s wishes and rejoins his regimen where he initially does well. Unfortunately, Joachim’s health soon fails and returns sheepinsly to the sanitarium where he soon dies. Settembrini and Naphta engage in a duel which unexpectedly results in Naphta’s suicide due to Settembrini’s unwillingness to engage. Hans barely notices as the years pass. Clavdia returns to the sanitarium with her lover, an inarticulate but vital Dutch plantation owner who wins over everyone, including Hans. The sanitarium briefly engages in a seance where Hans tries to contact Joachim, before the doctors shut it down. Other trends of the early 20th century, theoretical or otherwise, slowly make their way up to the sanitarium such as the record player. While caughter in a terrible snow storm, Hans has a dream where he discovers that death shall have no dominion over his thoughts and encounters the power of love. After seven languid and mostly fruitless years at the sanitarium, the outbreak of World War I calls Hans back to a life of action. Hans charging into a smoky World War I battle is the last we see of him.

For More see Summary

Major Characters

Clavdia Chauchat - A married Russian woman, supposedly gay, who entices Hans with her Slavic features and spirit.

Hans Castorp - Young man from Dresden instructed by his doctor to take a rest after his engineering exams. Hans visits his cousin, Joachim, in the Davos sanitarium and gradually becomes acclimated to its slow pace and bizarre atmosphere of sickness.

Herr Settembrini - Italian humanist who takes Hans under his wing early on. Settembrini introduces his young charge to the many fantastic personalities of Davos and explains the sanitarium's strange culture and atmosphere.

Joachim Ziemssen - Hans' cousin. A soldier sent to recuperate at the sanitarium, but who is anxious to return to his military duties.

Naphta - Apostate Jew turned Jesuit convert who vehemently opposes Settembrini's optimistic views. Naphta is a pessimist and skeptic who believes in mysticism, terror, absolute order and despotism.

For more information on characters go to Characters


Death and Sickness


Humanism vs. Absolutism (Settembrini and Naphta)


For more information on themes go to Themes


Bildungsroman (Novel of Development)





For more information on style go to Style



Background Information


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More Authors
Antonin Artaud  Samuel Beckett  Georg Büchner  Albert Camus  Paul Celan  Emile Cioran  St. John of the Cross  Stig Dagerman  Fyodor Dostoevsky  William Faulkner  E. T. A. Hoffmann  Henrik Ibsen  Franz Kafka  Søren Kierkegaard  Heinrich von Kleist  Comte de Lautreamont  Giacomo Leopardi  Thomas Mann  Herman Melville  Henri Michaux  Flannery O'Connor  Eugene O'Neill  Blaise Pascal  Rainer Maria Rilke  Arthur Schopenhauer  August Strindberg  Villy Sørensen  Georg Trakl  Paul Valéry  Paul Verlaine  François Villon 
Copyright 2004

Citation Information

Goodwin, Evan, "little blue light - Thomas Mann - The Magic Mountain", Littlebluelight ( June 25, 2002 Edition), Evan Goodwin (ed.) URL = http://www.littlebluelight.com/lblphp/indivwork.php?wkey=202