Tuesday, October 25, 2011

MM4: A necessary purchase

Davos around 1900

This chapter covers the third and fourth day of Hans stay. The weather has changed to the worst.
The cousins go for shopping and meet Settembrini


Hans Castorp goes into town to buy himself some blankets. He even considers to buy a fur lined sleeping bag but backs off, frightened by the idea. Investing in a sleeping bag, which he cannot use in Hamburg would mean he considers staying on the Mountain, to make himself at home the Sanatorium.

Meeting with Settembrini

-         he is suffering from the cold as he was from the warmth some days before. With only one set of clothes he is either over dressed or under dressed.
-         He criticizes the rules of the Sanatorium which are according to him based on financial interest.
-         Yearning for warmth, he has fond memories of his father
-         Settembrini suffers from the stupidity of some of his tablemates
-         Settembrini does not like Behrens ( because he keeps him on the mountain? ) nor Krokowski ( father confessor ) who wants to dissect his mind

Then Hans makes a careless assumption :

“One assumes stupid people must be healthy and vulgar, and that illness must ennoble people and make them wise and special”

Settembrini reacts immediately:

-         placet experiri: Settembrini says that Hans like other young people is experimenting with ideas.
-         Bad ideas must immediately be countered else they become an indelible trait of character in the young man
-         Of all ideas “hanging” around this subject, why has Hans exactly chosen this one?
-         “Illness is definitely not elegant and certainly not venerable- such a view in itself is a sickness”
-         It is an ugly and outdated idea that comes from ( religious ) superstition that harmony and health is suspicious and devilish and infirmity a passport to heaven

Then Settembrin, like an organ grinder, switches to his political tune : Reason and Enlightment will battle religious superstition with earthly work, which will lead us on the path of progress  and civilization and then towards a brighter light.

And now comes the catch. Settembrini in his reasoning overshoots the truths with which he has begun with and makes his ideas suspicious. Listen to the ugly things he says:

-         “Illness is a debasement of humanity”
-         “The tragedy begins where nature has been cruel enough to break the harmony of the personality by joining a noble and life – affirming mind to a body unfit for live”.
-         ( about Leopardi) “He viewed nature as evil, and she is evil, stupid and evil”
-         “ A human being who lives as an invalid is only a body – he is no better than a cadaver

Finally Settembrini sees the young mind not as an empty page, but a page fully written, the wrong and the good ideas together and it is up to the educator the erase the wrong ideas

Anyhow the message is missed on Hans and Joachim who have only been impressed by his eloquence

2. Time

Snow in August. Seasons are absent on the mountain. We cannot count on them to appreciate time. See: The seasons are not  all that different from one another.

3. Notes

Reminder that Settembrini is not as well to do as most guests.

Placet experiri: Latin phrase meaning "It pleases to experiment"

See how Hans when speaking to Settembrini  is ashamed to admit that he bought blankets.