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In Thomas Mann’s short story, The Path to the Cemetery , the central character, Piepsam Lobgott, is walking on the road to the cemetery. He ‘walked slowly, with lowered head, and supported himself on a black stick’. We are given a description of his face (‘smooth- shaven and pale’), nose (‘the dark rubicundity of which contrasted sharply with the dull pallor of the rest of the face’). We are told of his melancholy life, and that he drank. Mann goes on to explain how his addiction came about.

For you must know that ill fortune slays the dignity of a man – it is just as well to have a little insight into these things.

What follows is a remarkable insight into the human condition.

But self contempt and vice have a strange and horrible interrelationship: they feed each other, they play into each other’s hands, in a way to make one’s blood run cold. And that is the way it was with Piepsam. He drank because he did not respect himself, and he respected himself less and less because the continual shameful defeats of all his good resolutions devoured all his self-confidence.

This is just the part before the action begins. I can’t seem to find a link to the story online, but if you must read it, find it in The World’s Greatest Short Stories

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