*Crete (kreet). Island south of Greece and Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Although Kazantzakis is careful to create detailed settings for the action, Freedom or Death is really about the struggle of Crete to become free from outside oppressors. The novel is filled with descriptions of the countryside and its people. Throughout, Kazantzakis uses personification to create the impression that Crete is a living being. At one point, the island is compared to a woman being ravished. At another, the sufferings of Crete are compared to the sufferings of Christ. Like many nautical novelists, Kazantzakis uses the isolation of the island to create a sense that life-and-death issues must be resolved without resort to outside help. In this way, he manages to suggest that the island stands for the world itself—a place where men and women must struggle alone to establish their identity and define their self-worth against forces that would suppress them and strip them of their humanity and dignity.
The final scenes of the novel are set in Cretan mountains where Michales and other rebels take refuge from the invading Turkish forces. Amid the rugged terrain, a small band resists a much larger force, demonstrating their willingness to die for a cause in which they believe. The rugged landscape is an apt backdrop for such action, suggesting the rugged character of Michales and his band of patriots.
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