Zorba, the central figure of the novel. He is about sixty years old but feels that, ironically, his desires becomes more pronounced as he grows older. When he goes to the city to buy tree-harvesting equipment, he easily becomes sidetracked and spends most of his boss’s money on women and wine. He has a huge appetite for earthly pleasures. He is loud, crude, and larger than life. He believes in the primacy of the senses over moral and intellectual faculties. His pagan theology is rooted in nature and his own senses. He carries his senturi—the Greek counterpart of an American hammer dulcimer—everywhere, but he plays only when he is in the right mood and in the right company. Music is sacred to him. He dances whenever he is so full of emotion that he can no longer contain it. At his own child’s funeral, he was filled with grief and had to express it in dancing. He is a free spirit guided by his senses rather than his intellect. He laughs at his own shortcomings and is honest and open, like a child. Zorba practices his paganism to the last days of his life while wandering in Serbia.
The Narrator, who goes to Crete to experience the world by engaging in a capitalist venture but takes all of his books and bookishness with him. By chance, he and Zorba meet and become friends. The Narrator tells the story and analyzes the incidents. He observes Zorba with fascination. His sterile intellectual sensibility, however, is slowly transformed by his novel experiences. He begins to see the value of sensual pleasures. Zorba guides and encourages him. When the Narrator meets the beautiful, young Widow, he is attracted to her, but Zorba must coax him to pursue the relationship....
(The entire section is 713 words.)