Short Essay Questions Key
1. Describe the narrator's relationship with his old friend.
The narrator and his friend have a deep connection and love for one another. However, the connection is largely unspoken as the two men often argue rather than express emotion to one another. The soldier friend is more of an adventurer than the narrator, and often teases the narrator for being such a bookworm. The two men contrast one another; the narrator is more of a philosopher who is focused on a higher power, while the friend is a soldier who believes in living his life for his fellow man and his nation. The connection between the two men, despite their differences, is clear in their agreement to send mental messages to one another if they sense danger. This obviously indicates that they believe strongly in their connection and friendship.
2. What does Zorba represent in the story?
Zorba represents a man who lives for the physical world and ultimately for the individual self in that world. He is an agent of instinct and lacks theoretical reason for his actions. For the narrator, Zorba is a potential symbol of freedom in the narrator's quest to find freedom.
3. Why is the narrator going to Crete?
The narrator is curious about the adventurous life his friend preached to him. He is going to Crete to experiment with such a life by renting a lignite mine and thus engaging more with the physical world. His overall goal in these actions is to find freedom through a marriage of the mind and body.
4. What kinds of responsibilities does Zorba take on at the initiation of his friendship with the narrator.
Zorba agrees to act as foreman of the lignite mine. He also promises to cook the narrator soup and play him music on his santuri.
5. How does the fact that Zorba is missing half of his finger relate to his connection between manliness and freedom?
Zorba says that he cut part of his finger off because it got in the way of making pottery. He argues that anything that gets in the way of man doing what he wants should be removed. Because it takes a great deal of physical and mental courage to remove a body part, the connection for Zorba is strong.
6. Describe the narrator's counter argument to Zorba's connection between manliness and freedom regarding his missing finger?
The narrator argues that although such passions are admirable, they could also possibly lead to the desire to remove more crucial body parts. He suggests that Zorba might eventually want to remove his sexual organs, which would have a much more life-altering and drastic result.
7. At the conclusion of Chapter 2, do you think Zorba or the narrator has a more realistic outlook on how to live life?
I think that they have very different perspectives as distinct as two different languages. Zorba's outlook might be easier on a day-by-day basis as his doesn't require a lot of thinking through of various options and looks directly to instinct and passion. The narrator's perspective might be the more "realistic" however, in that it takes a much broader look at the many elements and their complex arrangements which come together to inform life.
8. What significance does the fact that Madame Hortense is a widow have toward the theme of manliness?
Madame Hortense is a character on whom Zorba and the narrator choose instantly to rely upon for shelter. The fact that she is completely devoid of Zorba's "manliness" (as a widowed woman) and has outlived her four great lovers, admirals who could be classified as the most manly of all men, speaks to a contrasting energy of freedom neither articulated by the narrator nor by Zorba.
9. How might Madame Hortense's romantic history challenge Zorba's concept of his own manliness?
Zorba believes in living for the day and that any impediment to freedom and manliness should be removed. Because he thinks sexual relationships are the ultimate in the physical life, he is helpless against the force of her own history. She has been romanced by legendary and powerful men, and Zorba cannot do anything to remove them as competitive forces from his own life. He offers to take on Canavaro's role in her life, but he has no power or awareness of how to actually fulfill that role.
10. In Chapter 3, how are the relationships between men and women on Crete exhibited?
In the beginning of the chapter, the narrator's encounter with the young women in the country exhibits the historical impact of war and violence on the male/female relationship. They are immediately frightened of him as a stranger, and so their encounter is stunted. Mavrandoni's offer to let the men stay in his house to avoid the scandal of staying with a woman also exhibits a level of division and acceptable interaction between men and women.
11. When Zorba tells the story of the old man who will never die, what does this show about his own and the narrator's perspectives on life and death?
Neither the narrator nor Zorba come to a conclusion about how one should live one's life. Zorba clearly lives as though each day is his last, in opposition to the old man in his story. The narrator is uncertain and contemplative about life and death and seems to change his mind slightly as he is influenced by different thinking.
12. Explain the parrot's role in the life of Madame Hortense and her guests.
Hortense's parrot is a constant reminder of Madame Hortense's greatest love. As a possession, it has been trained to say Canavaro's name repeatedly and therefore to challenge the immediacy of Zorba's manliness.
13. Describe the narrator's memory of his old friend while on their visit to the museum.
The narrator's old friend told him of his love for a painting by Rembrandt; a painting he says he will owe his greatest accomplishments to. As they are leaving the museum, they see a bird land on a statue of an Amazon and begin singing. The narrator asks what it might mean, and the friend recites a few lines that encourage the narrator not to bother himself with such thoughts.
14. When the narrator makes an attempt to get to know some of the mine workers, he begins to discuss socialism with them. Zorba does not like this. What are his reasons?
Zorba believes that supervising a workforce requires complete authority. He thinks it's better if they believe they have fewer rights and that workers who feel like they are equal to their bosses will eventually take rights away from their bosses.
15. Discuss the two goals that the narrator sets for himself at the end of Chapter 4? How is this a shift from the beginning of the story?
The narrator wants to rid himself of Buddha and the abstract thinking that comes along with Buddha. He also wants to be completely present in the physical world of men. He has wanted to find this physicality since the beginning of the story when his old friend's words inspire him to seek such a life, and begin his journey to Crete. Originally, he was completely invested in philosophizing as well. However, the fact that he wants to exorcise Buddha from his thinking is a definite shift in his character.
16. How does the narrator reveal that he is like his grandfather?
He remembers his grandfather demanding that guests tell him their personal stories of adventure so that he could experience the thrill through their stories. This is similar to the narrator in that the adventures for both occur removed from the action and inside the head and ideas of the two.
17. What feelings does Zorba express about religion?
Zorba claims to be an atheist. However, when it comes to the other villagers, Zorba believes that religion is not only important but is the center of their way of life. He warns the narrator that speaking against religion to the villagers is not wise as it is better for them than having no organized structure at all.
18. When the narrator observes Zorba's ease with problem solving in Chapter 5, what figures come into his mind?
The narrator realizes that Zorba's mind is not stressed with education and that his problem solving is a result of his connection with the physical world. He compares Zorba to Alexander the Great cutting through the Gordian knot with his sword. His notes that it is difficult to miss with feet planted firmly and held by the weight of the entire body. This leads him to compare Zorba to the serpent worshiped by Africans. He notes that anything so connected with and touching the earth constantly must be superior in its understanding of the earth's workings.
19. How does the narrator describe Zorba the first time he sees him dancing?
The narrator says Zorba looks like he is wearing rubber shoes. He also says that Zorba's soul looks like it is trying to fling his body like a meteor into the darkness.
20. Do you think Zorba's description of dance as a language is accurate? In other words, does the narrator understand what Zorba means by his erratic dancing?
Zorba says that he had so much joy that he had to let it out somehow and dancing was the best way to let the explosion loose. The dancing reminds the narrator of a story he made up about how his grandfather died. He told friends that the old man bounced on rubber shoes until he disappeared into the clouds. This does exhibit some understanding. The narrator associates the dancing with a great release of energy although he cannot clearly name it.
21. Describe Zorba's categories of marriage and how many of each he's experienced.
Zorba says he's been married "honestly," "half-honestly," and "dishonestly." He says that he's been married "honestly" or legally only once. He says that he's been "half-honestly" married, or in relationships similar to marriage that were not made formal and legal with a wedding, two times. He says that he's been "dishonestly" married a thousand times, and by this he is referring to every sexual encounter he's ever had.
22. Describe Zorba's only account of his heart being broken.
Zorba met a woman named Noussa ten days after leaving the village of his previous lover. Noussa invited him to her house for a feast at which Zorba gave a toast. After this, the lights went out and a massive orgy began. He lost Noussa in the midst of the orgy but found her the next day, and they remained together for 6 months. She then eloped with a soldier and broke Zorba's heart.
23. Describe the first time that the narrator sees the widow.
The narrator and Zorba duck into a cafe in the middle of a rainstorm, and from here, they see the widow run past the window. The narrator immediately finds her beautiful, although there are a variety of responses to her presence, not all of them positive. Soon after, Mimiko enters and reports that the widow has lost her sheep and offers a reward to anyone who can help return it to her.
24. When Zorba encourages the narrator to be more like he is and pursue the widow, how does this contradict Zorba's other advice?
Previously, Zorba told a parable about a crow who tries to walk like a pigeon, reinforcing his idea that one must remain true to his true and individual identity. Zorba's disappointment with the narrator when he is unable to be the man of sensuality that Zorba is, contradicts this parable to some extent.
25. What does Zorba's version of God look like?
Zorba claims to be an atheist, but he does tell the narrator that God is likely a more outrageous version of himself for whom forgiveness is not difficult, and who does not want to be worshiped.
26. What reasons does Zorba give in Chapter 9 for so intensely wanting the narrator to go and sleep with the widow?
He says that women need men to sleep with them and protect them; that it is a part of a greater plan. He says she will be ruined if a man does not go and sleep with her. He also says that not taking the opportunity to sleep with her is one sin that God will not forgive.
27. How does the narrator try to get the widow out of his mind at the beginning of Chapter 10?
The narrator views the widow as a temptation of the Evil One and focuses on writing his Buddha Manuscript in order to exorcise her image and the lust he feels for her from his mind. To him, his writing is comparable to the force of savages facing beasts with their spears.
28. How does the narrator's memory of the butterfly impact his feelings about approaching the widow?
The narrator had attempted to help the butterfly emerge from the cocoon by blowing warm air on it. Doing this made the butterfly emerge too quickly and die. The narrator realizes while meditating on this memory, that an individual must "confidently obey the eternal rhythm." He knows, in turn, that he can't speed his relationship with the widow and must let it unfold naturally.
29. Describe the painting that Zorba presents to Madame Hortense.
The painting has four huge battleships on it in red, gold, gray, and black, each with a flag from one of four countries: England, France, Italy, and Russia. Leading the battleship as a siren was Madame Hortense, naked with a yellow ribbon around her neck and holding four strings attached to the ships.
30. What is Zorba's account of God's creation of woman?
Zorba says that when God removed the rib from Adam, the devil turned into a snake and snatched the rib and ran off with it. God then chased the devil and caught him, but the devil ultimately got away while God was left holding only his horns. God then made woman out of the devil's horns rather than the rib of Adam.
31. Do you think the narrator has actually lost all interest and faith in poetry as he claims in Chapter 12? How so?
No. When the narrator says of the Buddha, "I must mobilize words and their necromantic power...invoke magic rhythms; lay siege to him, cast a spell over him and drive him out of my entrails! I must throw over him the net of images, catch him and free myself!" he demonstrates a transformation in the way he sees poetry. He sees it less as contemplation and more as a physical act of using language. His use of the craft has changed, but it is untrue that he no longer has use for it as he so claims.
32. What does Karayannis's letter from Africa remind the narrator that he has always wanted to do?
He has a desire to see and touch as much of the world as he possibly can before he dies.
33. How does Zorba's version of the devil living inside him compare to Zorba himself?
Zorba says that the devil is a mirror image of himself. The only difference is that the devil refuses to grow old. He also wears a red carnation behind his ear.
34. What does Zorba do while in Candia?
He meets a young girl with whom he has an affair. He also spends all of the boss's money.
35. Why does Anagnosti say that Pavli is blessed?
Pavli commits suicide by drowning, and Anagnosti says that he is blessed because he is free from the object of his desire, the widow. Anagnosti claims that Pavli could not have lived happily with or without her because he had so much passion for her but now he is at peace.
36. When writing letters to Madame Hortense, what does the narrator have to do?
The narrator must pretend he is Zorba. Therefore, he must take on Zorba's characteristics in his writings while looking for the best in Madame Hortense.
37. How does the narrator describe eternity in Chapter 15?
He describes it as being each minute that passes.
38. What evidence of artistic inspiration does the narrator find in the ruins of the old city? How does he feel when he sees it?
The narrator finds a partially finished jar carved from stone and a chisel on the ground nearby. This fills him with bitterness as he realizes the artistic inspiration has been defeated.
39. What does Zorba say about women when the narrator reveals that he has proposed to Madame Hortense on his behalf?
Zorba says that women are delicate creatures and are unable to handle such jokes.
40. In Chapter 16, what did the sleeping workmen do who when they heard Zorba playing his Santuri?
They got up, circled around him and began dancing to the music he played.
41. Why does Zaharia say he became a monk?
He says poverty led him to become a monk. He was hungry and knew that if he went into the monastery there would be no way he could starve.
42. Describe the incident that prompted the monastery icon's name to be changed from Our Lady of Mercy to Our Lady of Revenge.
In ancient times Algerians raided and set fire to the monastery. When they passed by the statue, it is said that she came to life, leaped down, and began stabbing the warriors with her spear until she had killed them all.
43. Describe the monastery bishop's first theory on religion.
He believes that the shape of a flower influences its color and its color then has an influence on its properties which in turn produce a specific effect on humans. He summarizes this theory with the belief that men should be careful when walking through fields of flowers because of the peculiar effects the flowers are having on them.
44. In his third theory of religion, what does the bishop give as God's reason for sending religion to the masses?
He says that God sent religion as an act of mercy for the masses in order that they might experience living in "eternity." The bishop believes that only a few people on earth are able to live an eternity during their natural lives on earth.
45. What is the irony of Zorba comparing himself to Zeus in Chapter 19?
Zorba says that he is like Zeus in that he sacrifices his own self in order to bring women happiness. This is ironic because Zeus is traditionally considered to be lecherous towards women.
46. What does Madame Hortense actually think of Zorba?
Madame Hortense thinks Zorba will make a useful husband but does not think much of him above and beyond that role. She wishes also that he were as exciting and accomplished as her former lovers.
47. Describe what happened while Zorba was at war that changed his mind about judging a person based on nationality.
While at war, Zorba murdered a Bulgarian priest who had been invading Greek villages and killing Greeks. Later, when Zorba sees the orphans of the priest, he realizes that nationality doesn't matter. Rather, "good" and "bad" are the only important classifications to consider.
48. What story does Zorba tell in Chapter 20 that supports the theme that appearance creates reality?
Zorba tells a story in which his grandfather takes a piece of wood, calls it part of the True Cross, and declares that it will protect the soldier to whom he gifts it from all harm in battle. The soldier then becomes a brave and invincible warrior simply because he believes that he has nothing to fear.
49. What two major shifts happen to the narrator in Chapter 21? What major realization do these shifts spur in the narrator.
The narrator finally sleeps with the widow, which Zorba has been encouraging him to do for some time. The narrator also finishes the Buddha Manuscript and with it, has the realization that he has exorcised the Buddha from himself. These two shifts make it clear to the narrator that "the soul is flesh as well," or in other words the actions of his body are just as important and spiritual as the meditating and thinking to which he is accustomed.
50. What does the narrator succeed in doing in Chapter 21 that Zorba could not?
The narrator recognizes that Madame Hortense is seriously ill and takes care of her both mentally and physically. He mentally encourages her by reminding her of her wedding while physically bringing a doctor to attend to her. He uses Zorba's romantic speech tricks while conscientiously attending to her health as well. Zorba, on the other hand, is a successful romantic but not a responsible partner.
51. Describe the actions that follow after the widow enters the church at the Easter celebration.
Because the villagers blame the widow for Pavli's death, Manolakas leads a mob to the church when they discover that she is there. When she walks out of the church, the mob surrounds her and Mavrandoni blocks the door to keep her from going back in. The mob begins to throw stones at her, and several pull knives as well. Mavrandoni says it is his right to declare judgment and orders her to be killed. The narrator attempts to save her but trips on a rock. Zorba arrives and also attempts to save her. Momentarily, he does as he wrestles Manolakas away from her, but ultimately Mavrandoni cuts her head off.
52. After the widow's murder, what happens when Zorba and Manolakas meet near the widow's garden?
Manolakas challenges Zorba to a knife fight after having been beaten previously. Zorba tells him he will fight without weapons. Then the narrator intervenes and talks them down from fighting at all. They end up all drinking together.
53. As the narrator watches Zorba comfort Madame Hortense on her death bed with the others eagerly awaiting her death, what does he compare the scene to?
The narrator first compares the scene to a huge exotic bird with a broken wing that has fallen and is dying on the beach, with all of the villagers standing around watching for entertainment. Then he compares Madame Hortense to other animals as well, like an "old angora cat" and "a sick old seal."
54. What does Zorba say about the act of crying when Madame Hortense dies?
He says that he isn't ashamed to cry in front of men because of the unity they share. He says that crying in front of women is different because it is a man's job to prove his courage when before women.
55. What was Zaharia's inspiration for burning down the monastery?
He says he was acting on a mission assigned to him by Archangel Michael. He acted, however, based on the knowledge he received from Zorba.
56. What does the narrator state is the reason for Zaharia's death?
The narrator says that Zaharia has fulfilled his main passion and purpose and has therefore accomplished everything that life would ask of him, so he can die.
57. How did Zaharia appear when he was found dead?
He was found shaven bald and pierced with the spear of the Holy Virgin of Revenge.
58. Why do you think the narrator's good friend, the soldier, is not named until his death?
It may be to emphasize the theme of the importance of human interaction and companionship. Just as the narrator is gaining the realization that human connection is essential, his friend dies and his friend's name is revealed. His friend has also fulfilled his passion, which was to serve his country. His name is then symbolically mythologized when it appears in the story.
59. What might be the significance of the narrator inheriting the Santuri?
The Santuri, Zorba's musical instrument, was one of the symbols in the story of the expression of emotion outside of words. Zorba plays the Santuri in the story when he is happy. The fact that the story ends with the Santuri in the narrator's possession is an indication that he has grown closer to reaching his goal, that of a marriage between the body and spirit, and that he has attained some level of the sought after "freedom."
60. How are Zorba's final moments described?
Zorba dies howling and laughing like an animal.
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