Zorba the Greek

11 November 2016

According to Epicureanism you cease to be with your death, this is a thread of thought further developed by Freidrich Nietzsche (1884-1900), one of Kazantzakis greatest influences. The word Dionysian originated from Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. Dionysian nature is prominently associated with music and dance, and giving emotions free reign. These two philosophies are closely associated since both find great merit in happiness and are found to have been controversial. One reason for this is our tendency to discard pleasure as a moral good; we usually consider humility, wisdom, justice, and other virtues to be ethical.

However, following the doctrines of Epicurus and Dionysus, behavior in pursuit of pleasure is the only life path that will assure an upright life. The protagonist of Kazantzakis novel, Zorba, is the embodiment of these values; through Zorba the reader obtains a better understanding of these concepts. Zorba’s personification is seen through his expression of emotion, his challenging death, his tendency to live in the moment and his love of the santuri and dance. Epicureanism is characterized by the drive to do things solely because you want to. This notion is first introduced very early in the novel: “Can’t a man do anything without a why? (Kazantzakis, 10) says Zorba. Later when speaking of his latest engagement as a miner, he says “simply because I felt like it” (10) when explaining why he left the mine. Zorba simply does things for the sake of doing them and not for a predetermined gain, because doing these things brings him pleasure. By questioning whether men are able to “do anything without a why” he sheds light on the human predisposition to do things only because it will give them an advantage. The interesting choice of the diction “harum-scarum” (127) accurately defines Zorba, Epicureanism and Dionysianism. Zorba uses this phrase to describe how his recklessness ncreases with age. “Harum-scarum” is defined as being a daredevil and lacking responsibility. This would mean that you are not worried about the past or the future or the consequences your actions may have, and are ultimately doing what makes you happy. This definition of “harum-scarum” can be extended to include giving your emotions free reign or being reckless with your emotions. Someone who is “harum-scarum” is someone who does not think of the consequences of allowing emotions to control their actions. The other significant aspect of Epicureanism is the indifference toward death; according to Epicureanism there is no after life.

Zorba the Greek Essay Example

Freidrich Nietzsche believed humanity should work to enhance the life of the individual and focus on the realities of the present world. Zorba consistently contemplates death; he brings up something an elderly man once said to him “My son, I carry on as if I should never die” (35) and then counters it with his own view, “And I carry on as if I was to die any minute” (35). These two statement are essentially opposite but they lead to the same thing: you should be bold, live life to its fullest, and ignore death; because if you spend your life anticipating it, you would have missed out on all the days preceding it.

It is better to experience one moment fully than to live a whole life incompletely, which is what a man of true Epicurean and Dionysian nature would do. On the final page of the novel there is a striking manifestation of Zorba’s Epicurean and Dionysian nature. After speaking his last words, Zorba “brushed us all roughly aside, jumped up out of bed and went to the window. There, he gripped the frame, looked out far into the white mountains, opened wide his eyes and began to laugh, then to whinny like a horse.

It was thus, standing, with his nails dug into the window frame, that death came to him. ” (310) Even on his deathbed Zorba does what he felt like in the moment. Until the very end, Zorba fights against death by using his last strength to go to the window and passes away while looking out at the beauty of life. He dies strong, not weak; standing with his nails dug into the window frame and looking out with wide-open eyes create imagery of Zorba refusing death and laughing is seldom associated with a dying person.

This underlines his particular temperament, to the end Zorba commits to the Epicurean and Dionysian values of total engagement in life. Zorba explains his use of dance as a tool to liberate himself, he says “Whenever I feel I’m choking with some emotion…I dance. And I feel better! ” (72) To Zorba dance is an outlet for the emotions too intense to be expressed using words. He uses dance when he is in complete ecstasy, for example upon hearing Boss’ intentions for his enterprise in Crete; or when his negative emotions are too great to cope with, such as the grief over the death of his son.

Zorba portrays the Dionysian way by choosing dance as his preferred medium of expression, since language is an inadequate tool for expressing his most extreme feelings. Zorba also uses dance to narrate what he is unable to say. When he was in Russia, he knew very little Russian and could not tell his story to a man who only spoke the language, so he danced it. “I danced my misfortunes; my travels; how many times I’d been married; the trades I’d learned …” (73) Since they are unable to communicate using words they found an alternative which allows both of them to explore deeper into the other’s story.

Words are merely created by rational thought, whereas movement is something that is native to the body. This is a concept Dionysus personified. The emotions Zorba expresses through dance are too intense and insane to be expressed in words, which lead to the notion that Zorba gives his emotion free reign; he allows his emotions to control his dance and consequently also allows them to control his actions. Boss described Zorba’s dancing as “ a soul…struggling to carry away his flesh” (70) and he fears that “Zorba might disappear into the clouds. (71) Zorba’s dance is so passionate that boss used heavenly imagery to describe it, since it is out of this world. The way Zorba throws himself into dance shows how he lives in the moment because to him there is no wrong time to dance; no matter the situation, he dances because he feels it is what he needs to do. Zorba plays the santuri for similar reasons as dancing. “I play the santuri and it cheers me up. When I’m playing, you can’t talk to me, I can’t hear and even if I hear, I can’t speak. (12) Zorba plays the santuri when he experiences great happiness or pain; since he is unable to hear or speak this shows how deeply rooted his emotions are, this leads us back to the concept of giving your emotions free reign. The reason why he cannot speak when playing the santuri is because he plays it when his emotions are too great to express using words, he simply cannot find the correct words to say and believes that he is saying it all with the music; this is a very Epicurean quality. His personification of the santuri shows his deep respect and love for it.

He says “it doesn’t want to… we mustn’t force it” (77) when Boss asks him to play something. He treats it like a woman, “…They drew out an old santuri… those big fingers caressed it, slowly, passionately, all over as if caressing a woman” (13) These quote displays the deep love Zorba has for the musical instrument; they illustrate how Zorba treats it, as sensually as if it were a conscious being. His respect for the santuri demonstrates how highly he values it. Upon elaboration this also means that he deeply values music, and music is an important aspect of Dionysian life.

Epicureanism deems active enjoyment as life’s highest good and disregards death. Dionysianism believes in giving emotions free reign and highly value music and dance. Zorba exemplifies these concepts through his expression of emotion, love of the santuri and dance, tendency to live in the moment, and by challenging death. Nikos Kazantzakis’ incarnation of Epicurean and Dionysian values in Zorba the Greek allows the reader to gain a better understanding of these concepts. Epicureanism and Dionysianism are two separate philosophical ideas that have greatly influenced Nikos Kazantzakis in his writing.

A limited
time offer!
Save Time On Research and Writing. Hire a Professional to Get Your 100% Plagiarism Free Paper