Interpretation of novellas

The novella belongs to narrative poetry, to the genre of epic poetry.
It has its origin in the Italian Renaissance. People told each other stories for social entertainment, the focus of which was not a character, but a surprising event, a piece of news (Italian: novella = "news"). In the course of its development the character of the novella has changed.
Especially the German novella is considered the strictest form of prose narrative.
The action of the novella comes to a dramatic head in an extraordinary incident (closeness to drama).
The theme of a novella can be, for example, a moral problem, a general human problem, or a social problem.
The imagined reality of the novella focuses on what is significant; unlike the novel, the novella refrains from broad descriptions of details.
Similar to the drama, the novella ends with a resolution to the escalating conflict.
Some of the most famous German novella writers are HEINRICH VON KLEIST ("Der Findling", "Michael Kohlhaas"), ANNETTE VON DROSTE-HuLSHOFF ("Die Judenbuche"), GOTTFRIED KELLER ("Kleider machen Leute"), THEODOR STORM ("Der Schimmelreiter"), THOMAS MANN ("Tonio Kroger", "Mario und der Zauberer").

Examine a novella

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Interpretation of novellas

Origin of the novella

The novella belongs to the narrative poetry, the genre Epic.
It has its origin in the Italian Renaissance. People told each other stories for social entertainment, which centered not on a character, but on a surprising event, a novelty (Italian: novella = "news") stood. In the course of its development its character has changed.
What distinguishes a novella from other Narrative forms, The novella, short story, or novel?
In 1827 GOETHE described a short story he had just finished as "an unheard-of occurrence".
Specifically the German novella is considered the strictest form of Prose narrative.
In a dramatically escalated event, the action of the novella converges on a extraordinary incident (closeness to drama).
This incident deviates extremely from the everyday probability, nevertheless it must be possible in relation to the actual reality – unlike the fairy tale.
The imagined reality of the novella focuses on the significant, unlike the novel renounces the novella on broad description of details.
Similar to the drama, the novella ends with a Solution of the escalating conflict.
Some of the most famous German novella poets are: HEINRICH VON KLEIST ("Der Findling," "Michael Kohlhaas"), ANNETTE VON DROSTE-HuLSHOFF ("Die Judenbuche"), GOTTFRIED KELLER ("Kleider machen Leute"), THEODOR STORM ("Der Schimmelreiter"), THOMAS MANN ("Tonio Kroger," "Mario und der Zauberer").

Interpretation of a novella using Thomas Mann’s "Mario and the Magician" as an example

The text interpretation serves the interpretation of a literary text in connection with the statement intention of the author, embedded in the historical context. It allows for a deeper understanding of the text and can furthermore pursue the goal of making the text understandable and accessible to others.
Any interpretation of the text presupposes a solid Knowledge of the text ahead.
The determining tense is the Present.

The introduction of the interpretation contains information about the author and his work.
THOMAS MANN wrote the novella "Mario and the Magician" in 1930.
growing National Socialist danger in Germany reminded THOMAS MANN of experiences during a vacation in Italy 1926.

In the main part the actual interpretation of the text takes place. One begins with a short Text reproduction.
Subsequently, one deals with specifics of the Content, of the Text structure and the Language apart. This is done in close connection with the interpretation of the statement intention of the author.
The specific characteristics of the novella genre are examined in the concrete text:
How the novella opens?
What stands in the center of the novella?
In which There is the extraordinary of the novella, the unimaginable, the focal point, the specific of the genre?
Like the structure of the text realizes the extraordinary event?
What is the theme of the novella?
The fictitious events, the dramatic escalation of the conflict and its resolution are interpreted against the real historical background and placed in a context outside the fiction.
What artistic means the author uses?

Many novellas can be recognized as such by their opening . Already the first sentence in THOMAS MANN’s novella does not actually tempt to narration. The reader gets to experience something unpleasant: "The memory of Torre di Venere is atmospherically unpleasant". The opening also betrays the narrator’s attitude right at the beginning and extremely impressively :
"The memory . is atmospherically unpleasant." The sentence that follows only heightens this perception by the reader: " Anger, petulance, over-tension were in the air from the beginning." this half-sentence suggests that it was a kind of predestination what events would follow. The figure that becomes the narrative occasion is first introduced by Thomas Mann seemingly in passing: "and at the end came the choc with that terrible cipolla". However, this is not the end of the sentence. In typical Mannian fashion, a canon of words pelts down on the reader, but Cipolla is introduced very precisely as a person who is . seemed to embody the peculiarly malignant mood in a fateful and, incidentally, humanly very impressive way, and to press together threateningly."

THOMAS MANN cuts out a single item from the as yet unknown course of events. It is the one on which the entire Drama of his novella comes to a head: the Italian place Torre die Venere and Cipolla. We learn more about the place as well as about the named person only in the further course of the novella, although about Cipolla only rather late, towards the end of the first third of the plot.

The author, who in the novella plays the role of the outside narrator Plays, right in the first sentence, professes his excessive aversion to what he has experienced.
Thus the Ominous ("the peculiarly malignant"), which will come to a dramatic head in the course of the plot, already announced; the reader suspects what might be in store for him emotionally. In fact, this atmospheric unpleasantness will accompany him through the entire course of the story.
THOMAS MANN announces the threat ("threateningly crowding together") itself in his opening, but at the same time also a sense of certain fascination, which is conveyed by it in the person of the Cipolla goes out.

The center the novella is often found already in the title.
It can be u. a. be a thing ("The Jewish Book"), a person ("Michael Kohlhaas"), an event ("The Duel") or a situation ("Death in Venice").
In "Mario and the Magician," the conflict itself is at the center, personified by the title characters Mario and the Magician.
They embody the conflict in its extreme aggravation. Mario on the one hand, as a representative of the simple fellows from the people, who unexpectedly and as the only one successfully defends himself against the "evil spell".
The magician Cipolla, on the other hand, a symbol of chauvinist morality and Italian fascism, drives the plot to catastrophe with his increasingly intolerable experiments.

The Extraordinary of the action, the focal point, the specificity of the novella consists in the scandalous appearance of the magician Cipolla and its unforeseen consequences.
He deliberately selects from the audience young men of the lower classes: "Cipolla was careful not to annoy the distinguished part of the audience."
After indulging in nationalistic phrases ("Go to your places! Anyone can write in Italy, whose greatness offers no room to ignorance and darkness."), he first verbally humiliates the boys in increasing drama ("Already your tongue, whose purity leaves much to be desired, points to acute disorder of the gastric system . "). After all, he puts them under hypnosis and turns them into objects that follow his commands willy-nilly. The humiliation finds its "unheard of Climax, as he portrays the unhappy loving Mario, whose face is a "primitive melancholy" let recognize, brings on the stage. After the magician first mocks him by spilling Mario’s most intimate secrets in front of everyone, he increases the humiliation to an unbearable level. Mario must kiss Cipolla. "The moment was … monstrous …, – the moment of Mario’s bliss", judges the author. After Cipolla’s riding whip has brought Mario back from intoxication to real life, the young man realizes the ignominy done to him. And something unexpected happens: Mario, of all people, puts an end to the cruel game by shooting Cipolla.
The Extraordinariness of this event has also outer figure. On the one hand in the ugliness of Cipolla: "He had very ugly hair." . "The little body damage of which he had spoken preemptively was now all too apparent . " In contrast, THOMAS MANN draws the servants and fishermen, to which Mario also belongs, sympathetically, he mentions the friendly connection of the children to them. Mario himself seems rather gentle, of "There could be no question of brutality of expression; the unusual slenderness and delicacy of his hands would have contradicted this . of which one was glad to let oneself be served."
It is typical of the novella that the concise representation little space for Differentiation of the characters lets.

The structure of the novella resembles that of the drama.
In the exposition of "Mario and the Magician", THOMAS MANN first describes the Italian vacation resort of Torre di Venere in a casual conversational tone. Mario, the waiter at a garden cafe, also, "of whom I will then tell you in a moment", is briefly mentioned.
But the idyll is deceptive. Several inconveniences announce the impending doom and the increase of the dramatic action an:
At the request of a noble lady, the family must leave the hotel because of the fading whooping cough of the young son.
On the beach "swarmed . of patriotic children".
Finally, the nudity of the narrator’s eight-year-old daughter arouses the philistines on the beach: "Not only the letter and spirit of the public bathing regulations, but at the same time the honor of his country are sacrilegiously violated", is excited by a "Lord in the urban snicket". The narrator judges: "These people made . something like a disease through."
The fact that the family has to pay a fine after this incident can still be viewed with irony by the narrator: "We thought that this contribution to the Italian national budget should be worth the adventure . "
But he is creeped out by Foreshadowing of the impending doom: "WSo we stayed and experienced as a terrible reward for our steadfastness the impressively wretched appearance of Cipolla." Weather changes almost simultaneously with the hypnotist’s appearance: "The sky covered", also a dramaturgical grip Of the author, to convey the coming gloomy mood. From here the plot picks up Drama it rises steeply.
Due to the late appearance of Cipolla and the resulting restlessness of the audience, there is already tension in the air. Proportionally with the increase of tension with each new appearance of the subjects the degree rises of human humiliation by the hypnotist. One fellow writhes in abdominal pain in a state of hypnosis, another sticks his tongue out at the audience. "A gentleman from Rome" seems to want to resist the sorcerer. He refuses to dance. "This brave man wanted to carve out the honor of the human race." But also his will is broken by Cipolla and he dances with the others "jumping jacks".
Finally, the most sacred human feelings, namely that of love, trampled underfoot by Cipolla. Only here Mario reappears. He is the unhappy lover whom the magician taunts and from whom he finally demands – in a trance – to kiss him.
Cipolla believes himself to be at the peak of his "fame"; likewise, the peak of the Repugnance, the Contempt for mankind reaches. The High point of the novella. The tension can not be greater, now something must happen. The crack of Cipolla’s riding whip, which wakes Mario, is the signal for the turning point of the novella. Mario shoots down the villain. The latent disaster leads to a catastrophe.
Then the plot falls quickly and briefly. The novella ends with a Evaluation of the narrator: "An end with horror, a most fatal end. And a liberating end . "

The theme of a novella can be, for example, a moral problem a generally human or a social event.
"Mario and the Magician" reflects in a parable-like form the fascist tendencies of that time.
In Italy, a fascist dictatorship had already existed since 1922 and THOMAS MANN observed with concern the growing fascist danger in Germany.
In the novella he makes Cipolla say: "Freedom exists, and the will also exists; but freedom of will does not exist, for a will directed to its freedom comes to nothing." The hypnotist Cipolla subjugates the will of his spectators to his own in an inhuman way, he turns them into will-less objects who follow him blindly and are not aware of their degradation. Even the strong will of the "gentleman from Rome", who bravely opposes it out of a healthy human sentiment, is broken by the tyrannical sorcerer because he has nothing to oppose him.
THOMAS MANN on this: "Probably you can’t live from not wanting to." The psychological interpretation has to be transferred into the political one. The subjugation of his audience by the hypnotist Cipolla is a parable for the subjugation of the people under a fascist dictatorship. Dictators also work with means of mental manipulation, to enforce their interests. With "small, black mustache over the wrinkled closed mouth" it is no coincidence that Cipolla resembles symbolic figure of German fascism.

In the novella all find linguistic-artistic Means as in other works of narrative art place.
names the novella writer usually does not leave to chance.
THOMAS MANN borrows the name of his protagonist Mario from antiquity, from Marius, the most bitter opponent of the dictator Sulla. The Italian word cipolla means onion, which characterizes both the outer appearance of the magician and his inner being. It is interesting with what variety THOMAS MANN names Cipolla: "a traveling virtuoso, an entertainer, forzatore, illusionista and prestidigitatore (that’s how he described himself)", "magician", "juggler", "hypnotist", "that all too sure", "cripple", "the self-confident grown-up", "the hunchback", "emcee", "chevalier", "cavaliere", "master", "the terrible", "personality of stern self-assurance", "a jumbled bundle of clothes and crooked bones".
He compares him to the "type of the charlatan, the puffery buffoon" of the 18. Century. The author compares the magician’s frightening accessory, the riding whip, with the "staff of Kirke" (Kirke or Circe = sorceress from Greek mythology). And the comparison is followed by another metaphor with two personifications: ". this whistling leather whip with a claw grip ruled unrestrictedly."
In contrast, the "humbug sash" seems ridiculous.
From the mouth of Cipolla come, among others, the metaphors "salt fish and sea fruit" and "knight of the napkins". By this he means – contemptuously – the young fellow whom THOMAS MANN calls "Giovanetto", and – flatteringly – Mario.
The Personification "a feeble rain" announces Cipolla’s physically feeble appearance.
What is striking in THOMAS MANN’s novella is the recurring Original language Italy, mostly as sonorous exclamations of the Italian people ("Pronti!", "Poveretto!", "Balla"). As a reader, one feels immediately transported to the scene of the event.
In a few places, the narrator, who speaks in the Preterite addresses the reader directly (in the present tense): "They understand our nervousness." This gives the impression that the author is telling you as a reader what he has experienced in a very personal way, you feel very close to the poet. By appealing to the reader for understanding through direct address, he confidently communicates his discomfort to him. Although the narrator is predominantly referred to as passive observer The fact that the young man takes part in the events is due to his Narrative form in the first person a great authenticity. One can imagine him very well as an attentive eyewitness, who does not miss any detail.

A complicated hypotactic sentence structure is less typical for a novella than for the poet THOMAS MANN. The long sentences are often followed by Insertions (parentheses) interrupted. Sentence connections within extensive sentence structures he likes to separate by semicolon.
However, immediately after the catastrophe ("two flat blaring detonations"), three short simple sentences follow one another (paratactic): "Immediately silence fell. Even the fidgeters came to rest and gawked in amazement. Cipolla had jumped up from his chair in one sentence." This outer Break in style conforms to the break (turn) in the plot, to the unexpected that occurred. Suddenly Cipolla is the victim.
At the end of the novella THOMAS MANN even uses shortened, syntactically incomplete sentences (Ellipsis): "An end with horror, a most fatal end." Surely an expression of his speechlessness and exhaustion after this event.

In the final part of the text interpretation, one summarizes the Results together and tries a Score.
In order to Interpretation to present linguistically coherent, one can refer to the introduction, one can furthermore place the discussed work in the overall work of the author.
Value criteria can be: formal perfection, authenticity of presentation, depth of thought penetration, originality of language, emotional impression, topicality in the present.
It is certainly not easy to evaluate the work of a famous author. Here the reader’s judgment and taste are called for.

(The quotations are taken from the volume: Mann, Thomas: Mario and the Magician. A tragic travel experience. 20. Aufl., Frankfurt: Fischer Verlag, 2005)

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