The book treats in its first part various thematic elements of
Buddenbrooks, e.g., Religion, Death and Disease, Language and Society, Servants, and the Rival Family. In its second part it deals with some of the shorter pieces of Mann's narrative fiction, among them
Der Wille zum Glück, Gladius Dei, and
Der Tod in Venedig. In both parts the analyses are based upon the method of close reading that tries to fill gaps in the existing critical literature or to approach its topics from a new point of view.