Character Analysis Joachim Ziemssen


Unlike his cousin, Joachim never loses touch with the "world below." His uncompromising views and disciplined way of life earn him the ridicule of Clavdia Chauchat and, to a lesser extent, also that of his own cousin. To Clavdia, Joachim represents the incarnation of the German military mind, eager to place order over liberty and anxious to live and die for a cause. Hans refers to him as "not exposed to intellectual dangers," but not without envying him for his uncomplicated nature.

Joachim dies when he returns to follow the call of duty; he fully commits himself. And, since he dies willingly and contentedly, the question emerges as to whether Mann's "safe distance" and continued "selfeducation" have unlimited validity. Maybe his ultimate message goes beyond this demand and concedes that the lifelong search for the last answers and the most objective position (as Castorp practices it) should be restricted to the very strong. It is safer and, indeed, necessary for Joachim (representing the vast majority of people) to commit himself to a cause, to firmly believe in it, even at the risk of being "bourgeois."

Mann does not condemn Joachim for his views and actions, though he might very well have condemned Hans had he acted like him. Whatever Joachim may be, he is not a dilettante. Considering that dilettantism is the basis of the decadence of the Berghof reality, Joachim's integrity remains unchallenged.

The discrepancy between Joachim's goals and his fate is the object of Mann's irony. He, who has always known what he wants, cannot even join the maneuvers. His cousin, who has spent his life in the service of the avoidance of friction and the compromise of opposites, is plunged into the war.

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