Three Views of Time in Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain

Owens, Edward
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
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When speaking of Tonio Kroger, Thomas Mann makes the following comparison with The Magic Mountain: “Here perhaps for the first time I learned to use music to mould my style and form. Here for the first time I grasped the idea of epic prose composition as a thought-texture woven of different themes, as a musically related complex—and later, in The Magic Mountain, I made use of it on a larger scale.” Thus Mann describes his novel as composed of several themes woven together into an integrated whole, what has been called “the most highly integrated of all the attempts to express life on a large scale through the medium of literary creation.” One of the key themes in this book is the problem of time. E. B. Burgun dismisses this theme, as elementary and unimportant: “As for his discussion of time, I put that aside since, in comparison with Proust’s really magnificent though not always satisfactory insights, his is only the common-sense observation that time sometimes seems longer or shorter than it really is by the clock.” H. Muller’s statement seems closer to the truth: “He is also able to put Hans Castrop beyond Time itself. Time ceases to exist for the patients of the Berghorf: it is one of the dominant themes of The Magic Mountains as of Rememberance of Things Past, and Mann seeks as earnestly as Pronst to escape its tyranny.” Hermann J. Weigand further states: “One of the themes most frequently touched upon in the ‘Zauberberg,’ with repetitions and variation is the experience of the passage of time.”
30 pages
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