Buddenbrooks

Thomas Buddenbrook and Schopenhauer

In Part 10, chapter 5, Thomas Mann described Thomas Buddenbrook's encounter with Schopenhauer's philosophy. When he read the second volume of Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation, Thomas Buddenbrook was strongly affected by Chapter 41, entitled "On Death and Its Relation to the Indestructibility of Our Inner Nature." From this chapter's influence, he had such thoughts as "Where shall I be when I am dead? ...I shall be in all those who have ever, do ever, or ever shall say 'I' " ..."Who, what, how could I be if I were not—if this my external self, my consciousness, did not cut me off from those who are not I?"..."soon will that in me which loves you be free and be in and with you – in and with you all." "I shall live...Blind, thoughtless, pitiful eruption of the urging will!" Schopenhauer had written that "Egoism really consists in man's restricting all reality to his own person, in that he imagines he lives in this alone, and not in others. Death teaches him something better, since it abolishes this person, so that man's true nature, that is his will, will henceforth live only in other individuals." According to this teaching, there really is no self to lose when death occurs. What is usually considered to be the self is really the same in all people and animals, at all times and everywhere. Irvin D. Yalom had a character in his novel describe it as follows:

...essentially it described a dying patriarch having an epiphany in which the boundaries dissolved between himself and others. As a result he was comforted by the unity of all life and the idea that after death he would return to the life force whence he came and hence retain his connectedness with all living things.

The Schopenhauer Cure, Chapter 32

However, a few days after reading Schopenhauer, "his middle class instincts" brought Thomas Buddenbrook back to his former belief in a personal Father God and in Heaven, the home of departed individual souls. There could be no consolation if conscious personal identity is lost at death. The novel ends with the surviving characters' firm consoling belief that there will be a large family reunion, in the afterlife, of all the individual Buddenbrook personalities.


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