What are the themes in Zorba the Greek?

Expert Answers info

James Phillips eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2019

write147 answers

starTop subject is Literature

In Zorba the Greek, a novel written by Nikos Kazantzakis and published in 1946, I believe there are three significant themes: existentialism, morality, and happiness. The most important of these, in my opinion, is existentialism.

Existentialism

Existentialism is the theory that man is free and in charge of his own development. The thirty-five-year-old narrator, Boss, is an intellectual and a Buddhist. His companion, Zorba, however, is a sixty-year-old uneducated hedonist. Throughout the novel, they are involved in an almost constant conversation—including what it means to exist in a world where...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 548 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write9,114 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

jilllessa eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2007

write310 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Science

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial


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.