Zorba the Greek (log) Essay

Explanation

(p.4) “Far better make a clean break and remain in solitude – the natural climate of man”

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This suggests some nihilism and some buddhism. Nihilism because Boss suggests that a man is naturally solitary and thus does not need other people for survival or anything else and that other people are there just for fun. Buddhism because Boss solitude could mean that a man must meditate and renounce materialism, and for that man must be alone with or without god.

(p.12)”Why! Why! “he exclaimed with disdain. “Can’t a man do anything without a why? Just like that, because he wants to?”

This shows Zorba’s Dinysus side, being irrational and passionate. He simply does things for the sake of doing them and not for a reasoned gain. This is slightly agressive as Zorba maybe only tries to get work. This quote also ties a bit into epicureanism as all Zorba wants is to do something fun and new.

(p.20)”Thats what you might call being a man: freedom!” and “it got in my way in the wheel. […] So one day I seized a hatchet…”

Zorba says this when he talks about being able to create anything from mud and chopping off his finger because it bothered him while he was working. This shows of his Dionysus hot headed passion about pottery where his emotions take over to cut the finger off. This quote also ties in with vitalism as Zorba feels his creating power and this gives him all the strength to overcome physical pain.

(p.49) “This smoke is the essence of his [Buddha’s] teaching, these vanishing spirals are life coming impatiently to a happy end in blue nirvana.

This quote shows the Buddhism of Boss as he mentions Buddha directly and the idea of nirvana which is a truly a Buddhist belief. This is also an example of meditation, because Boss is looking at this smoke as a means of meditation.

(p.54) “And I made romantic plans […] to organise a sot of community in which everything should be shared, where we should eat the same food together…” and page 55.

It clearly suggest to the appeal of Marxist and Communist ideas to Boss. Even if they are romantic plans only. As a Buddhist Boss is most likely willing to end the struggle between people by putting them all at the same level. Boss knows what Zorba would say and admits his softheartedness that is this idea, which would make the men lazy and impudent. This then shows that Boss is a reasonable man, like Apollon and does not let his romantic dreams fly and ruin him.

(p.83) “I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier , the sound of the sea. Nothing else.”

Zorba here becomes very emotional and renounces the big materialistic values and sticks with the simple and cheap satisfaction of being tipsy, warm, calm and not hungry. He says that all one needs is to satisfy the basic levels of Maslow’s pyramid in order to feel happy, a buddhist thought as well as an Apollonian serenity.

Setting and Culture

The initial setting is melancholic. The morning mist and the storm display Boss’ feeling as his emotions storm through the memories of a friend he had said goodbye to in this very port of Piraeus and had not seen since. The mist shows how Boss feels alone since in a mist one can see only himself and the mist around. However he considers it to be a man’s natural state to be in solitude(p.5).

The majority of the time through these chapters Zorba and Boss are in Crete. A Mediterranean island. They enjoy the sea and the beach. They are set amongst workers and women. This is the approach that they take towards most people there, men are workers for the lignite mine and women are desired and adored. On p.27, while they are still drifting along the shores Boss reflects “…a low grey hill without a tree, resembling the face of a woman resting. And beneath her chin, along her neck, ran the dark brown veins of lignite.” This makes both the reader and Boss feel romantic towards Crete and welcome it as a new beginning with opportunities of business for Boss.

Culturally they both come from a different place so they have to adapt to the cretan customs, that is why Boss says, “Mind you behave, now we’re entering the village. […] Cretans don’t take things lightly.” (p.29) Both have been to Crete previously, however Boss being the Apollonian is worried that Zorba will commit queer actions and give them a bad reputation. This adds a little pressure towards both and creates mental distance between the heroes and the cretans for the reader. As if to remind that that Zorba and Boss are not and never will be proper Cretans. Especially when both make a house away from the town to distance themselves physically.

The cliffs, sea, beaches and a fire are mentioned many times, especially when Boss seeks to meditate or simply be alone. This shows that he is a man that likes to be close to the nature, giving the feeling that nature is the best place one can be in. This is demonstrated best when during the first lines of chapter seven Boss seems to have found happiness by sitting on a beach with a fire, wine and chestnuts which are all natural entities in small amounts. The overall climate gives the reader a romantic perception of actions on the island, seeming that no matter what happens or has happened will be no worse than sorrow or boredom.

Themes

The main topic in this passage are women, who are analysed and adored endlessly. Zorba seems to be solely living for women, especially when he says that he would wish to take all the beautiful young girls with him in the grave. (p.82) Zorba is slightly a hedonist and a bohemian. He lives for the pleasures of the world, which is especially sex and women. As Zorba mentions, he has been attracted to so many women that he has abandoned hope to keep count. From a feminist point of view this might seem very sexist to be thinking about women as sources of pleasure, however it is a very courteous move to be respecting all women as equal. Zorba sees Aphrodite in every woman, no matter what they might be like. Zorba is in no way sexist as he supposes all women to be near godesse. Boss does not show as much interest in women and does not dispute Zorba’s desire to have Dame Hortense for the night. (p.45) Sex is a big preoccupation of Zorba’s.

Another theme is material pleasures, romantically called wine and tobacco. Both men enjoy having a nice smoke and a glass of wine. In this case Boss is the one who enjoys the tobacco most. The smoke ties well into Buddhism, meditation and overall peace. As it is commonly known nicotine causes blood to flow more actively and engages a person to think more actively, forgetting about the sense for a while. Both wine and tobacco are substances that make people dizzy and different, usually more open. Zorba even uses wine to get to women, the obvious technique of getting the potential partner drunk and to loosen up himself.

The final theme is freedom and happiness. This is what Boss mostly philosophizes about, especially when Zorba asks him rhetoric questions or tells stories that have bothered Zorba’s own mind for long. Like on p.26 and p.27 when Zorba tells a story about a man who throws away all of his gold. This gives Boss an epiphany, or at least a different way of looking at things. Zorba is the main source of spiritual evolution in Boss.

Literary Features

Kazantzakis uses many personifications to portray attachment to something. Like in the example of the island being portrayed as a woman or on p.40 wine is said to have a devil inside it. He uses metaphors, especially when Zorba is speaking or Boss in thinking. For example on p. 40 there is a simple metaphor comparing kind words to love or gold. And that is very common in this passage to have these small metaphors that make the story easier to relate to and add a romantic tone when life is compared to a mediterranean occurrence.

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