Zorba the Greek Questions and Answers
by Nikos Kazantzakis

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What are the themes in Zorba the Greek?

One of the main themes of Zorba the Greek is the importance of actively living in the world instead of retreating from it. Zorba enthusiastically engages in the world by indulging in wine, women, and song. This marks a stark contrast with the Boss, who is so deeply intellectual than he cannot deal with other people.

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Elsewhere in his work, Kazantzakis appears to endorse the abandonment of sensuality and self-indulgence in favor of spiritual fulfillment. Yet in Zorba the Greek, he reverses that position with a vengeance. It’s perfectly clear that the reader is meant to sympathize with the eponymous Zorba as he indulges in the sensual life to the full, a life revolving around wine, women, song, and mining.

At once anti-intellectual and anti-religious, Zorba has no time for thinking or for contemplating the eternal verities. For him, life is to be lived to the full, and that involves drinking, womanizing, and dancing. For Zorba, life is to be lived, not understood.

Compare this attitude about life with that of the Boss, an intellectual ascetic who has chosen to follow the way of the Buddha. Whereas Zorba enthusiastically embraces the world and everything in it, the Boss rejects it. He has long since died to the world. And whereas Zorba is very much a people person, a man to whom men and women alike are...

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lionmoon1948 | Student

If you see one main theme, how to realize our full potential as a human being, all the other incidents and actions support, refine and color this main point. We have two men almost diametrically opposed, who present us with this perpetual challenge in a harsh and ancient land. Their adventures point up and illustrate the ancient and harshness of the struggle to realize our humanity.

How do we reconcile our physicality with teachings of overcoming and rising above our ‘animality?’ Ultimately, we accept life in all its ramifications. We surrender to our nature and celebrate it. Celebrate it in song and dance. Like these two men do towards the end of the story.

The passage to this celebration is littered with hardship and frightening examples of cruelty, greed, disappointment. Two business ventures fail: the mine and the forest project. Zorba and the Narrator have to accept this. The young, attractive widow is harassed by men whose advances were rejected, then who finally stone and behead her when she allows herself to love. A young man kills himself over this.