Lesson 1 (from Chapter 1)
There are three categories of men proposed by the characterizations set up in Chapter One. These categories are men who live for either God (the narrator), Mankind (his soldier friend), and man as an individual (Zorba). These categories of mankind demonstrate the complex workings and interactions inherent in any social body or bodies. Conflict is thus unavoidable due to the dramatic variance in motivation of these three general categories. The objective of this lesson is to consider human connection as composed of often disagreeable yet interconnected webs of motivational drives.
1) Divide the class up into groups of 4 or 5 and ask the groups to answer the following questions regarding the narrator, Zorba, and the soldier friend.
• What does each of the three men's greatest passions seem to be?
• List a few characteristics of each man described in the book.
• In what ways to Zorba and the soldier connect with the narrator as a friend? How are these different? How are they the same?
Using these questions as a discussion basis, ask the class as a whole to categorize the men according to the categories in the lesson objective.
2) Divide the class up into groups of 4 or 5 and have them brainstorm as many different public figures as possible, and then speculate what category, based on public image and occupation, the individuals might fall. After several minutes, propose a list of social or political questions the individuals on the lists might be faced with and why or how their motivations might lead them to be in conflict regarding the issues. For example, into what categories might Barrack Obama and Britney Spears fall? Why might their categorical motivations lead them to conflict over an issue such as the penalty for drunk driving?
3) Have each student write a few paragraphs detailing which category or categories of characterization they would place themselves and why, with a defense that explains why they would not be in the excluded categories. Have them include information such as how their current interests and activities lend toward their decision, as well as their future aspirations. Then have volunteers read their pieces to the class.
• Conflict is a common part of daily life. Pick an article from the news that details a contemporary conflict.
• Make a list of involved figures/individuals and try to determine which of the three categories of characterization they might best fit.
• Based on your category selection, think about how their varying motivations might have incited the conflict in the story.
• Conversely, make a note if individuals in the story or another story actually helped each other, or complemented one another by having characteristics of opposing categories.
• Select a portion of dialogue (a few paragraphs to a page) between Zorba and the narrator that occurs as they are getting to know one another.
• Make a list of the differences between the ways the two men express themselves. For each difference noted, decide how the expressions also support the category of man the character has been placed into.
• Finally, for each difference in expression, write whether you think the difference will ultimately make the two men closer as friends or come between them.
Lesson 2 (from Chapter 1)
"Freedom" is established in Chapter One by Zorba as an essential part of the human condition that is directly related to how physical and manly a man is. Zorba also hints throughout the book that women are not included in this philosophy because he believes that they must be taken care of by men. Additionally, there are hints in Chapter 1 that God and the Devil are both contained within the individual, not separate, the management of which might also play into the level of a person's manliness.
The objective of this lesson is to explore the idea and embodiment of "freedom," how it is defined and described in the book, and how students actually experience it in the world.
1) Engage the class in a discussion of Zorba's definition of freedom, that being a "freedom" defined by manliness. Then divide the class into groups of 3 or 4. Ask the groups to list as many factors characteristic of personal freedom as they can possibly think of. Then ask the class to compare their lists to Zorba's description and decide which of their factors could be characterized by "manliness" and which are not gendered.
2) For class discussion: As the class how they think modern society genders freedom. Do women and men experience different forms of freedom based on social expectations? Is one gender's "freedom" more "free" than the other? Have the class list the narrator's described traits so far in the story. He is not "free" based on Zorba's description of freedom. Is he free based on the contemporary cultural view(s) as previously defined by the class? If either character were to be married by the end of the story, which would likely have the wife with more "freedom"?
• Find evidences of Zorba's purported "freedom" throughout Chapter One. These might include his stories about past actions, his meeting and interaction with the narrator, and his actions in comparison to his description of manliness.
• Write a paragraph for each example describing how the example aligns with Zorba's theory about "freedom."
• Write a second paragraph describing how the example could keep him from being completely free or could impinge on another person's personal freedom with whom he interacts.
Lesson 3 (from Chapter 2)
In Chapter 2, Zorba cuts off his finger to improve his skills in pottery making. The Chapter addresses the theme that pleasure experienced through bodily knowledge is the primary purpose of life, as well as that any impediment to such pleasure must be removed.
The objective of this lesson is to explore the idea that the body is the site of action on and in the world, mainly through pleasure and also that the inhabitant of the body possesses free rule over the body.
1) Ask the class to list as many parts of the body and their corresponding access to pleasure and pain as they can think of. Have the class vote on which part of the body equips the total human with the most overall access to pleasure and pain. Take the top two body parts from the voting result; then divide the class into two groups and have them debate which of the top two body parts affords the individual more opportunity to act his will out in the world. Split the debate time in half. Ask each team to debate half of their time from the point of view of Zorba, and the other half from the point of view of the narrator while in opposition to the other character.
2) For class discussion:
• How does the ability to remove one's own body part equate to the exercise of will and action in the story?
• Would Zorba be equally as willing to allow a girlfriend or wife to willfully remove one of her own body parts?
• How does such an argument compare to the contemporary pro-life/pro-choice debate? On which side would Zorba likely fall on such a debate? On which side would the narrator likely argue?
• Write a one page essay about one thing you are extremely passionate about, a hobby, sport, game, activity, etc.
• In the essay describe as clearly as possible the elements that are best or most exciting about the thing. Indicate whether your main motivation is physical, emotional, intellectual, other, or some combination.
• Then also include what important thing you would be willing to get rid of in your life to maintain your ability to participate in or to preserve your passion.
• If you would be willing to remove a body part, indicate this, but it might be some other extraction like a friendship or your home that you would be more willing to sacrifice.
Lesson 4 (from Chapter 2)
Zorba tells the narrator in Chapter 2 that a man cannot be truly learned unless he has gone through a period of savagery and committed every sin that he can possibly consider committing. He goes on to tell the narrator that he is not as learned as he could be because he is lacking in the area of savagery.
The objective of this lesson is to consider the act of learning from a physical perspective, specifically that of violence or other acts that might be considered improper or wrong.
1) Ask the class in advance to bring in newspaper or magazine clippings with articles reporting on acts of violence or other obvious social improprieties. Discuss as a group how the people involved may have learned from their wrongs or wrongs committed on them in ways they otherwise would not have.
2) For class discussion: Zorba hasn't yet revealed any of the savage behaviors of his own past. His theorizing leads a reader to believe that he may have committed such acts. Discuss what potential sins Zorba might be hinting at having committed. Zorba does reference his wartime experiences on Crete when he talks about savagery. What kinds of actions must happen during training and battle that would offer learning experiences to those involved that everyday life might not necessarily offer?
• Write a one-page paper on Zorba's description of learning about the world through violence.
• First detail his ideas about savagery and committing sin.
• Then write about whether you agree or disagree with Zorba's theory of learning.
• Finish the essay with a personal or unrelated instance of violence in which the individuals involved (you or others) learned things about the world that they could not have learned otherwise.
Lesson 5 (from Chapter 3)
In Chapter 3, the reader finds evidence that wartime has indeed left a mark of learned behavior on the inhabitants of Crete. Several women are afraid when they encounter the narrator, a foreigner on their island. Also, Dame Hortense is a symbol of the product of a life lived amidst war and warriors, having had affairs with four great generals.
The objective of this lesson is to explore the way that war changes the way of life and perspective of the inhabitants of a geographical region, as well as its visitors, for years and, often times, generations to follow.
1) Have the students make a list of every encounter the narrator has had with villagers on Crete. As a group, compile the lists and discuss which interactions were influenced or informed by the wars that occurred on Crete.
2) Divide the students into groups and have each group imagine a Madame Hortense character that never experienced war on her home of Crete. Have the groups describe the alternate life she may have led without having ever encountered the four great loves of her life or the violence she witnessed. As a class, compare the varying reports of an alternative Madame Hortense and discuss how the violence of war made her who she is.
3) Assign a few volunteers the task of bringing in a world news article detailing events of a current war somewhere in the world. Ask the group to discuss how these events might forever change lives in that location.
• Briefly research one war that occurred at some point in history or that is occurring now which involves your country.
• Describe how your country is or was being permanently impacted or how your country might be permanently impacting another involved country.
Lesson 6 (from Chapter 3)
Zorba is further portrayed in Chapter 3 as an individual who lives like every day will be his last, fully embodying the notion that one should chase down one's desires and physically enjoy life at all costs.
The objective of this lesson is to explore the ways that Zorba and the narrator create parallel stories in the novel via their different perspectives on life.
1) For class discussion: How does the man in the story who lives as if he will never die differ from Zorba? How is the man alike or different from the narrator? In your opinion, is one living life more fully than the others? How does Zorba's perspective on life grant him more freedom than the narrator? How does the narrator's perspective grant him more freedom than Zorba? Do Zorba and the narrator share any goals in the mining project?
2) Divide the class into groups of 3 or 4. Ask each group to pick a story from the newspaper in which a disagreement is involved in some way. Then ask the groups to write a few sentences describing which individual(s) in the article Zorba would agree with and which the narrator would agree with. Then ask them come up with a potential and irreconcilable disagreement between the two characters that could potential shut down the mining operation. Have each group share with the class.
Write a 3-paragraph newspaper article describing the opening of the lignite mine from an objective point of view.
Lesson 7 (from Chapter 4)
Parables are an important tool that Zorba uses in his efforts to teach the narrator how to be a man of the flesh. The narrator also uses parables to express his philosophical ponderings. The objective of this lesson is to explore the parable as a tool for learning as well as a literary device in Chapter Four.
1) Divide the class into three groups and assign each one of the parables from Chapter 4 (ie. Zorba's grandmother's yearning to be serenaded, a young woman closed in by the hand of God). Ask the class to briefly outline what moral or religious lesson the assigned parable is attempting to teach. Ask the group to determine if the parable is successful, and, if not, how the story might have been changed in order to successfully deliver its moral lesson. Ask also how the story could be changed to make it devoid of a moral lesson, and, in turn, a more complex and realistic narrative. Then have one spokesperson from each group give a brief summary of their group's discussion to the entire class.
2) For class discussion:
• What is a parable? How is a parable different from a fable?
• How is a parable different from a short story? A folktale?
• How have parables been used throughout history to prescribe ways of thinking?
• How does the parable as a literary device compare to a piece such as the Buddha Manuscript in its ability to relay a moral message?
• Using two or more characters from Zorba the Greek, write a short parable, at least three paragraphs in length.
• Maintain the novel's characterization but not necessarily its plot, themes, or setting.
Lesson 8 (from Chapter 4)
Zorba displays a very distinct attitude toward women and the manner in which men should treat women. The objective of this lesson is to explore the theme of freedom, which Zorba professes to seek at all costs, in contrast to Zorba's attitude toward women and to compare these to the narrator's perspective.
1) In-class writing and discussion activity: Write one paragraph detailing Zorba's attitude regarding a man's responsibility to seek freedom. Write a second paragraph detailing Zorba's attitude about how men should care for women and the female's concurrent inability to fully care for themselves. Write a third paragraph detailing the narrator's exhibited attitude toward relationships with women. Write a fourth paragraph detailing the narrator's introspective attitude about knowledge and freedom.
2) As a class, discuss the contradictions between the two men's ideas of freedom and their attitudes toward the opposite sex. Address how the attitudes in the novel reflect cultural and historic gender relations. Address the conflict between personal freedom and allowing freedom in interpersonal relationships.
3) In-class writing exercise: Ask the class to list the most important factors in achieving a life of "freedom." Then ask them to write a few short paragraphs detailing how they would ideally like to treat an individual of romantic interest. As a class, discuss whether the list and the paragraph are contradictory or are mutually conducive.
In the novel the woman and the copper hand are a symbol of the boundaries of freedom. Write a short story (one page) which uses a physical image that you think best symbolizes "freedom."
Lesson 9 (from Chapter 5)
Chapter 5 is marked with a religious dilemma in which Zorba, an atheist, defends religion for the villagers as central to their life. Meanwhile, the narrator attempts to expunge esoteric spirituality from his thoughts.
The objective of this lesson is to compare and contrast the interlocking narrative trajectories of the two characters.
1) For in-class discussion: How does Zorba defend the villager's religion to the narrator? Why, being an atheist, does Zorba defend religion? How does Zorba's defense of religion correspond to his belief that men should live a life of full physicality? Are religion and a life of complete physical pleasure mutually exclusive?
2) In-class discussion: Briefly review the myth of Alexander the Great and the Gordian Knot. Review the section in the novel that uses the Gordian Knot as a parable. If the Gordian Knot is a metaphor in a parable, then what other "bold strikes" might the myth be referring to? Is physical acuity, as Zorba suggests, the only possible solution to the equation? How might the narrator deal with the Gordian Knot? Which character would have the more successful "strike"?
• Write a few paragraphs detailing how, at this point in the story, you see the two main characters influencing one another.
• Does one seem to have a greater influence over the other? Has either character notably changed since the beginning of the book?
Lesson 10 (from Chapter 6)
In Chapter 6, Zorba introduces the art of dancing as a language which conveys thoughts and feelings that words are not capable of. The narrator understands but is incapable of using the language for his own expression. The objective of this lesson is to consider the use of languages alternative to the oral standard language as they are presented and used in the book.
1) For class discussion: Summarize Zorba's thoughts on dancing as a language. Under what circumstances has Zorba used dance to express the inexpressible? For what might the narrator find dance a useful tool for expressing? How is dance less effective than verbal speech? How is it more effective?
2) Ask the class to take a few minutes and list as many alternative languages used in the book as possible. These could include the monk's chanting/prayer, physical intimacy, singing, violence, etc. Then ask each student to list as many languages as they can think of that they've used in the past week. Finally, have students write a few sentences for each language detailing in which ways each language was more successful and less successful than other available options.
• Write a one-page essay comparing Zorba's work in the lignite mine to the narrator's writing of the Buddha Manuscript.
• Focus on how the two acts are expressions of a similar nature?
Lesson 11 (from Chapter 7)
Zorba has an unusual philosophy regarding women. He both loves them intensely and seems to live in part for the bliss of a sexual encounter. He adores women and prompts the narrator to celebrate their beauty while simultaneously acting incredibly misogynistic and claiming that rules do not apply to women because they lack normal moral strength. The objective of this lesson is to explore Zorba's characterization, especially regarding his approach to romantic life. How does his attitude toward women support his attitudes about physicality and freedom?
1) For class discussion: Describe Zorba's definitions and categorizations of marriage. What does this indicate about Zorba's attitude toward society's customs? How does his definition of his marriages contradict his attitude about women's lack of moral strength and ability to abide by customs?
2) In-class activity: Ask students to decide which of his loves seems like Zorba's greatest, and have them write a brief summary of that relationship. Then ask them to write a few more paragraphs supporting their opinion of whether the selected relationship made Zorba more or less free, both in the student's opinion and in Zorba's opinion.
• Women are a central part of Zorba's existence. He does, however, claim that women are flawed creatures. He also claims that men are flawed creatures and that both sexes are ultimately doomed to fall to their flaws.
• Pick one of Zorba's love scenarios and rewrite it in a contemporary scenario with modern characters. Then answer the following questions:
a. How might the selected relationship turn out differently?
b. Do you think men and women today are characteristically flawed in the same ways they are portrayed to be in Zorba the Greek?
c. Are the roles different now than they were then?
d. When it comes to dating and relationships do you think men or women are freer in contemporary society?
Lesson 12 (from Chapter 8)
Zorba continually tries to get the narrator to act as he would. Again and again, the narrator fails which, ironically, supports Zorba's theory that an individual must stay true to his own nature.
The objective of this lesson is to explore the ways that staying true to one's nature impact consequences for the characters in the story.
1) Divide the class into groups of 3 or 4 and assign them each a character from the book. Ask them to make a list of characteristics describing the character. Then have them pick a scenario from the story and decide how the character traits listed led to the consequences in the book. Finally, ask them how the consequences might have been different had the characters tried to act like someone they weren't.
2) For class discussion:
• How has the narrator tried to be more like his friend, the soldier who is away fighting?
• How has he tried to be more like Zorba?
• How, up to this point in the story, do you think he's become more like himself?
• If the narrator remains true to his own instincts, how might this impact his relationship with the widow?
• Consider Zorba's work in the mine and the implications of following one's instincts while working under dangerous conditions.
• Write a one-page scenario in which Zorba does not act true to himself and his instincts while working in the mine.
Lesson 13 (from Chapter 9)
Chapter 9 deals largely with the question of who and what God is. While Zorba claims to be an atheist, he also has extensive theories about what God is like in relation to man.
The objective of this lesson is to look at the ways that the idea of a higher power plays itself out in the novel.
1) For class discussion: Summarize the explanation of God that Zorba makes to the narrator. How does his explanation contradict his claim of being an atheist? How might it supplement his existence as an atheist? The narrator claims to have no idea what God is like. How might his life as a man of books have influenced his attitude toward God? Likewise, how might Zorba's life in the physical world have informed his theory that God is much like himself?
2) Zorba looks to the existence of a God when confronted with women issues, but he does so in a very non-traditional way. He says God cannot forgive a man who leaves a woman lonely. On the other hand, he has no use for God or men of God in issues of the physical world. He blames his encounter with the priest for the mining accident.
Divide the class into small groups. Ask them to make a list of potential life problems/incidences. Then ask them to decide which of these Zorba would welcome God's presence in or with and which he would dismiss. Finally, ask them to summarize why they think Zorba's character selectively accepts the presence of a higher power. Is he an atheist or does he have a religion? Have a representative from each group present and defend the group's answers.
• Create a God character that fits Zorba's description and imagine a conversation between Zorba and this God.
• Write one page of dialogue between the two. Write a second page of dialogue between Zorba's God and the narrator.
Lesson 14 (from Chapter 10)
The narrator constantly battles with attempting to live a life governed by the flesh versus the one that he is more naturally prone to, that which drowns him in esoteric thought. In Chapter Ten, the narrator is confronted with a lesson about following one's natural rhythms.
The narrator and Zorba have opposing world views but through their relationship, their "natural" ways of being are challenged by the other. The author uses the metaphor of the butterfly to demonstrate the potential danger in this.The objective of this lesson is to explore how metaphor is a successful literary device the author uses to express and develop this primary theme.
1) Read the section of Chapter 10 that details the narrator's experience with coaxing the butterfly too early from the cocoon, which ultimately results in the butterfly's death. Discuss metaphor as a literary device, how it aligns the character with the butterfly in regards to the narrator's fears about rushing things with the widow. Have each student write one paragraph analyzing how the butterfly story successfully mirrors the narrator's situation. Then have the students write a second paragraph in which they create a different metaphor which also expresses the narrator's situation. Have each student read their created metaphor aloud.
2) In-class activity: Zorba tries to convince the narrator that the act of celebrating is more important than the object of celebration. Write a few short paragraphs answering the following questions:
• Do you agree with Zorba?
• Why do you think Zorba believes this?
• Do you think the narrator understands Zorba's perspective?
• Do you think he believes him?
• Is the narrator capable of living by this standard?
• What religious metaphor does Zorba use to encourage the narrator to go the widow?
• How does his use of this metaphor support his ideas about celebrating Christmas?
• Write an extended metaphor (about half a page) that relates the dynamic of the narrator's relationship to Zorba? In other words, pick a symbolic act that mirrors the narrator's attempt to be more like Zorba, and write it out.
Lesson 15 (from Chapter 11)
Madame Hortense is an ironic lover for Zorba. While he is firmly and physically planted in the present and their affair seems a product of destiny, Madame Hortense is lost in memories of her past loves. Zorba believes he is her ultimate lover, but Hortense cannot and will not return this feeling.
In this lesson the objective is to explore irony as a tool for challenging characterizations which are seemingly invincible to most other physical and ideological challenges.
1) For in-class discussion:
• What is irony?
• How does Zorba see his relationship with Madame Hortense?
• How highly does Hortense regard the affair?
• How is this incongruent with Zorba's rather autocratic version of their relationship?
• How does irony work to undermine Zorba's confidence?
2) Divide the class into small groups and allow fifteen to twenty minutes for a brief dialogue analysis. Have the groups record dialogue between Zorba and other characters in which what is said or overtly communicated may be the opposite of reality or the opposite of what is meant. Have the group present their findings.
The narrator's fears about approaching the widow turn out to be somewhat ironic. In a few brief paragraphs, compare and contrast the irony in Hortense and Zorba's relationship to that in the narrator and the widow's relationship.
Lesson 16 (from Chapter 12)
Chapter 12 deals with the theme of the various types of men represented in the book. Zorba, the narrator, the friend, and Karayannis are each categorized according to their way of life and distinctions are drawn between the narrator and his abstractions and the other characters and the ways in which they act their wills out in the physical world. The Buddha Manuscript and the genre of poetry are situated as adverse to one another in this chapter.
The objective of this lesson is to consider the points of crossover between the categorizations of men as they are represented by the symbols in the story.
1) In-class discussion: The narrator realizes that his once-cherished poetry actually belongs to the Void and the world of abstractions, and he ceases to believe that it holds importance in the real physical world of men.
• What is poetry? How is poetry different than prose?
• Are there sections in Zorba the Greek that could be considered to be "poetic"?
• How do these sections work differently on the reader than those that are purely the telling of action?
• Do you think these sections are less important to the novel as a whole?
• Zorba often speaks of the importance of the language of dance.
• How might the language of dance be similar to poetry? How is it different?
2) Take a class poll on the topic of whether poetry is important in the physical world. Divide the class into two groups, those who think that poetry is relevant and those who don't. Ask them to find support for their arguments primarily in the text but also in other sources (poetry books, Internet, etc.), and then hold a debate to further explore the relationship between the physical world and the poetic.
In Chapter 12 Zorba seeks to find the perfect slope measurement for the timber rail. This is a symbol of his ultimate presence in the physical world as it is contrasted to the narrator as he wrestles with the Void, its lack of measurement and existence. Poetry can, however, entail the use of a great amount of mathematical measurement.
Try writing a sonnet about the lignite mine with the following guidelines:
• 14 lines long.
• 10 syllables per line.
• Use the following rhyme scheme for the line endings: abab cdcd efef gg (or make up your own rhyme scheme!).
• Is your poem a physical thing? Or just an idea?
Lesson 17 (from Chapter 13)
Chapter 13 is one of several chapters in which a letter written by one charter to another is used by the author as part of the text in the novel. In this chapter the reader observes Zorba's expression of self and emotion in a letter to his boss. The objective of this lesson is to study the epistolary exchange in literature.
1) For class discussion: Discuss the meaning of the word "epistolary."
• What other examples of the use of the letter in literature or as historical document can the students name?
• How does the reading of a character's letter -- essentially a switch from 3rd to 1st person narration -- change the reader's experience?
• How is it a different experience than reading spoken dialogue?
• Is Zorba's ability to communicate himself improved or hindered through the writing of a letter?
• What about other characters who have written letters so far in the book (ie. the narrator, his soldier friend, Karayannis)?
2) In-class activity: Have each student pick a letter from the book so far. Have them pick out which sentences might take on a different meaning if spoken aloud. Where the speaker/writer likely would be interrupted or responded to by the person to whom they are writing. How might this change the letter? Share findings with the class.
• Write a letter from Zorba to one of his lovers, either past or present. Try to stay in character as Zorba.
• When finished, ask how what you've written is different from how Zorba might speak to that same lover in person.
Lesson 18 (from Chapter 14)
In Chapter 14 the plot runs counter to several of the themes and characters' ideals. The villagers blame the widow for Pavli's suicide while Zorba's misogynistic view of women holds them responsible for any problems they might cause men. This lesson deals with the themes of gender presented in the novel.
1) In-class activity: Each student makes three columns on a page and labels the three "Zorba," "the narrator," and "the villagers." In each column, have the students list the qualities and responsibilities that each assigns to women (both as a whole gender and to specific women). Then in a group discussion, address how these varying attitudes play out against a larger theme of gender relations. How do Zorba and the narrator's attitudes about women play out as a central conflict? How has Zorba come to his very unique conclusions about women when his fellow Grecians are capable of such an opposite perspective?
2) In-class writing assignment: Write for ten minutes about your opinion on the cause of Pavli's death.
• Should the widow have handled her interactions with Pavli differently?
• Is she in part to blame? Who else might be to blame? Anyone?
• Could his death have been prevented?
• Does the time and place of the novel make a difference in this situation?
• How would your answers differ in a contemporary and local setting?
• Share responses with the class.
• In a few brief paragraphs compare and contrast gender relations in the novel with your perspective of modern gender relations.
• Which character(s) ideals about women are most relevant or similar to the present day?
Lesson 19 (from Chapter 15)
Chapter 15 delves deeply and from many angles into the presence of a God, religion, and corresponding human actions in the world. The convent's statue of the Martyred Virgin is one symbol introduced at the center of an array of characters' approaches to a possible higher power or lack thereof. This lesson explores the characters' ponderings with concentration on the statue and other important symbols.
1) For class discussion: Discuss the array of religious/philosophical theories/approaches observed in Chapter 15: the narrator's meditation, the shepherd's Buddhist inclinations, the old man's expressions about sin and pleasure, and Mother Superior's talk of eternity.
• Are the abandoned ruins of the city a symbol of one of these kinds of thought?
• What does a city that is no longer inhabited symbolize about human nature, culture, fluidity, and possibly religious ideology?
2) For class discussion: The Martyred Virgin seems to symbolize a confluence of the many theories presented in this chapter. Discuss the possible meanings of her wound.
• What could be the meaning of it bleeding once a year?
• Do you think this is a true miracle?
• What contemporary "miracles" have you heard of similar to this?
• How might such a "miracle" work to unite all of the theories presented?
• How might such a "miracle" further separate the characters involved?
• The narrator reveals his belief that Buddha is his last great obstacle. He follows this thought up with the acknowledgment that he fully expects another, equally difficult life challenge.
• Write a few paragraphs on how the statue of the Martyred Virgin might be a symbol of the narrator's struggle.
Lesson 20 (from Chapter 16)
The two edifices that play a role in this chapter are the monastery and the lignite mine. Buildings strongly represent the construction or bringing to fruition of ideas.
The objective of this lesson is to explore symbols of construction, specifically the mine and the monastery, as symbols of a life's work.
1) For class discussion:
• How does a monastery symbolize the narrator's way of thinking?
• Why does Zorba's suggestion that the narrator would like to build a monastery sadden the narrator?
• How does the mine symbolize Zorba's way of thinking?
• Should any import be attached to the notion that things and people are often added to a monastery, while things are often removed from a mine and people sometimes killed in the mining profession?
• What does the narrator mean when he tells Zorba they have both "seen nothing, nothing at all"?
2) For class discussion: Zorba and the narrator engage in dialogue around thoughts about their accomplishments and what makes them feel vital and fulfilled.
• If either character were to create a building that reflected their life's accomplishments, what kind of building do you think it would be?
• Zorba alters his appearance to reflect his life's priorities. The narrator speaks about focus and concentration as crucial to success. How might these characteristics offer hints about what kind of buildings they might aspire to create.
• Do the two lend each other any wisdom, or is each dutifully following their own assigned and natural rhythms, unassociated to the other?
• If they were to build something together, what would it be?
• Consider the symbolism in the potential construction of the timber rail.
• Write a few paragraphs detailing how such a construction might symbolize a change or shift in one's life work.
• Does the fact that the rail is going to run on the monastery land for the mine's advance have any symbolic meaning?
Lesson 21 (from Chapter 17)
Chapter 17 addresses desire as it is encountered by a range of characters with varying belief systems. The objective of this lesson is to explore the way the author demonstrates the desire for the material within the human being and the comparison with material things to the contents of the soul.
1) For class discussion: Who is more prone to give into material longing, the narrator or Zorba? Which of the two characters finds more beauty in material things? What's the difference between desire and finding beauty in things? How does acting on one's desires prove to be beneficial to one or more of the characters? Does it harm any of the characters?
2) For class discussion: Religion and the categorization of men again play a role in Chapter 17. Discuss how varying ideologies impact the way men act out their will upon their desires.
Write a letter from one of the monks to Zorba. The purpose of the letter is to try to persuade Zorba that he should join the monastery.
Lesson 22 (from Chapter 18)
Chapter 18 is largely about appearances. The monastery appears to throw off the material for the journey of the soul, but in reality is quite corrupt. Zorba mentions that a bishop in a nightgown is not really a bishop at all. Zorba professes that he doesn't involve himself in others' business, yet he secretly coaches Zaharia on how to destroy the monastery. The objective of this lesson is to delve into the author's use of plot to undo or confuse the established thematic lines.
1) For in-class discussion: The narrator is attempting to purge the Void and abstract pondering from his life. How do the events at the monastery support his efforts? Does being more like Zorba mean being less like the monks? Is Zorba corrupt? Do Zorba's theatrics as a man of the physical world release him from certain moral law?
2) Divide the class into two groups. For in-class debate, ask one team to create and defend an argument for destroying the monastery. Ask the other to defend the monastery's ongoing existence and holy operation. The defense should be centered on how their position would best further the story's plot.
• Chapter 18 seems to turn the established themes on end. Zorba and the narrator are faced with a spiritual battle between seeming and being.
• Make a list of all the ways the narrator, despite his challenges, still maintains the task of exorcising the Buddha.
• Use evidence from the chapter.
Lesson 23 (from Chapter 19)
In chapter 19, Zorba retells the story of the mythological Zeus in a way that fits Zorba's personal ideology about the existence of a higher power. He plays Zeus as a creature made to please and serve women, rather than in his traditional image as a lecherous womanizer. The retelling of myth and the recycling of mythological figures in literature as an effective trope used to layer a story with reference and, in turn, deepen its thematic content. The objective of this lesson is to explore the way the author has done this through the character of Zorba.
1) For in-class discussion:
• Who is Zeus?
• What are his most notorious characteristics in regards to his relationships with women in ancient literature?
• What characteristics does he share with Zorba?
• How does Zorba glorify and subvert Zeus's lechery?
• Zeus is the King of the Gods in Greek mythology; what does this say about Zorba's opinion about sexual prowess?
• Is the figure of Zeus that Zorba presents consistent with his earlier description of a god who is just like Zorba?
2) In-class activity: Divide the class into two groups. In Chapter 19 Zorba differentiates between men who live the mystery and men who are "pen-pushers." He says he doesn't have time to be a pen-pusher or man of books because he is so fully a man of the mysterious physical world. He goes on to support his argument with figures (Jesus and Zeus) whose modern existence we owe to writers. In changing their historical roles to fit his goal, Zorba engages in the oral tradition, a form of storytelling passed on with spoken language which often slightly alters the original and makes it fresh and more relevant to the present.
• Assign one group the task of defending writers and the other the defense of the performative storyteller.
• Have the class debate which form is more crucial to the perseverance of story through the ages.
• Zorba mentions that Jesus is the heir of Zeus but that he learned from Zeus's mistakes with women and warned men against them. Create a depiction of how the transaction of power from Zeus to Jesus might have taken place. Be creative.
• Write a lecture, a letter, draw a picture depicting the exchange, and write a short story or anything else you can think of.
Lesson 24 (from Chapter 20)
Chapter 20 is marked with Zorba's storytelling. He reveals many of his violent acts as a man of the physical world and relates more to the narrator about the act of creating reality through appearance. The objective of this lesson is to explore how, through actions, the different categorizations of men are able to create reality in varying ways in the story.
1) For in-class discussion: Review the categorizations of men that have been defined within the context of the novel, men living for self, nation, or God.
• In his stories about being a warrior, how does Zorba act as a man living for his nation?
• Has he maintained any qualities of a man living for the people/nation at the present in the story?
• In the previous chapter, Zorba went to great length to compare himself to Zeus and his role in giving women what they need.
• Does this make Zorba a man who appears to live for God as he understands God?
• Zorba claims to be a man who lives for self and the physical experience? What evidence do we have that Zorba is presently a man who lives for self?
• Do you believe that he is a man who lives for self?
2) In-class writing assignment: Zorba's story about the True Cross supports the idea that appearance creates belief and reality.
• Write for 10 minutes about one incident in the book in which appearance turned out not to be reality.
• Write for ten more minutes about a situation in which appearance did indeed create reality.
The narrator takes a bit of a back seat in this chapter as he examines Zorba's experience. Zorba has lived his life in some combination of the categorizations of men in the story.
• Do you think the narrator is successfully moving away from being a man who lives for God and into some other category?
• In what ways is your answer supported by physical appearances in the book? What is the narrator DOING to change?
• Write a 1/2 page response.
Lesson 25 (from Chapter 21)
In Chapter 21 the narrator experiences the shift from head to body, which he marks with the statement that "the soul is flesh as well." The objective of this lesson is to take a closer look at how the author is exploring the merging of self in the narrator from its disassociated parts through the act of writing.
1) In-class discussion:
• How does intimacy with the widow act for the narrator as a supplement to his completion of The Buddha Manuscript?
• He says that his body was working independently of his mind; do you believe that this is possible?
• Is he truly cured of his disembodied thought and philosophizing?
• Did the writing of the Buddha Manuscript afford him the ability to pursue a physical relationship with the widow?
• Would he have ultimately done so without tackling his esoteric thinking?
2) Break the class into groups of 3 or 4. Ask them to make two lists, one which describes the ways in which Zorba has synthesized himself as a man of God, the nation, and self; and another that details the narrator's approach at becoming a more physically dynamic individual. Ask them to summarize how the two have taken different life approaches and how they have acted similarly. Have they reached a similar place? Share findings with the class.
• Free-write for 20 minutes using nothing but stream of consciousness.
• Then write a paragraph comparing and contrasting the free-write to a physical activity, be it a sport, eating, or anything physical that works more from bodily intuition than thought.
• Finally, using your conclusions, write a paragraph summarizing if you think the act of writing has the potential of being a purely physical experience for the narrator of Zorba the Greek or if he will always be plagued with thoughtful interruptions.
• Are different types of writing more bodily than others (i.e. poetry vs. prose)?
Lesson 26 (from Chapter 22)
In Chapter 22 the narrator has finally found the "manliness" that Zorba equates to freedom, that which is found in the physical life. Just as the Buddha has seemingly been exorcised, the "symbol," ever an enemy to physical manliness returns to the narrator in the form of the widow's death. The objective of this lesson is to consider the challenge an author faces in creating a physical experience for the reader through the use of symbolism.
1) For class discussion:
• What is a symbol? What makes a physical thing a symbol?
• What is the difference between an object and a symbol?
• What symbols have been consistently important to you as a reader throughout the text? Why?
• What symbols would the narrator think are important?
• Are there any symbols that Zorba would find important to his life?
• Why does Zorba consider symbols to be dangerous?
• Do you think symbols are important?
• Do they work differently in real life than they do in literature? Why?
2) In-class activity: Have each student pick a symbol that has stood out to them in the reading. Ask the students to make 3 columns on a page. For ten minutes ask them to fill the columns as follows:
• What meanings does the symbol have in the story?
• What connotations do you as reader attach to the symbol that may not exist in the story?
• What other stories, movies, novels, poems, or television shows can you think of in which this symbol is important?
• Share with the class.
• Symbols are thought to have the power to physically evoke a response to the thing which they represent.
• Pick a symbol from Zorba the Greek that you think has had some sort of physical impact on both Zorba and the narrator.
• Write one paragraph detailing how the symbol has impacted Zorba and another for the narrator.
Lesson 27 (from Chapter 23)
The death of Madame Hortense leaves Zorba with neither answers about true freedom nor the implements of the physical life. Madame Hortense's possessions must be dealt with but the absence of her person cannot be consoled. The objective of this lesson is to consider the way the characters physically experience the death of another.
1) In-class activity: Have each student make an inventory of the items belonging to Hortense that are mentioned in Chapter 23. Next to each item, have them write down what each might have symbolized in her life. Share with the class.
2) For class discussion: As the villagers disassemble Hortense's physical life, her belongings and home, Zorba quietly mourns.
• As a man of the physical world, do you think Zorba is upset with the pillaging of Hortense's belongings?
• He mentions that her body is a piece of the earth but also that she has been taken away somewhere.
• What does this say about Zorba's opinion on life? Is it a purely physical ideology?
• When the dirge singers begin, the author writes, "...old griefs of their own invaded their minds like poison..." From Zorba's point of view, write a half-page explanation/defense of how this might actually physically work.
• Include how, in turn, their wailing might aid Zorba.
Lesson 28 (from Chapter 24)
When confronted with the meaning of death, the narrator has no answers. He summarizes what he knows to Zorba as "sacred awe," and immediately he sees a change take place in himself. The objective of this lesson is to explore the author's use of questioning and experience in the thematic search for freedom.
1) For class discussion:
• What is the "sacred awe" that the narrator reveals?
• Do you think it comes in part from knowledge he's gained from his books?
• He nearly describes it as "poetry" but instead calls it "great danger." Why might "sacred awe" be described as both "poetry" and "great danger"?
• Because the "sacred awe" is "not Knowledge, or Virtue, or Goodness, or Victory...," all crucial elements to the physical life of man, is it possible that it can lead to freedom by Zorba's definition?
2) For class discussion:
• What do you think this change is that the narrator experiences?
• Is it a physical change?
• If not, is it relevant to his quest for freedom and manliness?
• What triggered it?
• Is Zorba also capable of such change?
For homework: Write a poem describing the change that the narrator observes himself going through as you imagine it to happen.
Lesson 29 (from Chapter 25)
Disaster marks Chapter 25 in the form of mechanical failure and murder. Themes of loss and companionship weave together here to evoke a deep understanding and happiness within the narrator. The objective of this lesson is to further explore the summation of this thematic content.
1) For in-class discussion: The narrator experiences a premonition regarding the danger his soldier friend might be in.
• Do you think the knowledge that his friend dies offers the narrator more or less confidence in his body?
• Is intuition a physical experience?
• Zorba's ultimate project, the timber rail, fails; and, as a result, the narrator loses everything. How has his relationship with Zorba countered his loss?
• Why is the soldier friend's name not revealed until the end of the book?
2) In-class discussion:
• What do you think the narrator's greatest accomplishment in the novel has been?
• What might he be celebrating when he and Zorba roast the sheep after the timber rail collapses?
• How would you describe his relationship to Zorba?
3) Write a letter from Stavridaki to the narrator in which he describes hearing/understanding the telepathic message that the narrator sends to him.
Lesson 30 (from Chapter 26)
In the final chapter of the book, an exquisite balance between the two main characters is exposed as an ultimate existence which neither has yet conquered. The objective of this lesson is to review the path traveled by the narrator in achieving the understanding that he has reached.
1) For class discussion:
• What does Zorba mean when he tells the narrator that he needs folly to be fully free? Is Zorba fully free?
• Do you think the narrator has found freedom?
• Which of the two do you think is more "free" at the conclusion of the novel?
2) Ask each student to draw a chain of major events that have led to the narrator's state at the conclusion of the book. For Discussion:
• Are most of them positive or negative?
• What would you conclude is the author's primary message on what the most valuable experiences for learning are? Do you agree?
• What does the beautiful green stone that Zorba invites the narrator to see symbolize?
• Write a one-page response. Include why you think the narrator refused to go see it and what the result of that decision might entail.
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