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Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis - How does Nikos Kazantzakis portray Zorba as personifying the Dionysiac character and the Epicurean philosophy of life?

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WORLD LITERATURE PAPER Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis How does Nikos Kazantzakis portray Zorba as personifying the Dionysiac character and the Epicurean philosophy of life? In the book by the recognised Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba, the main character is an avatar of the Dionysiac nature and practitioner of the Epicurean philosophy of the pursuit of earthly hapiness. The word dionysiac is derived from the name of the ancient Greek god Dionysus, who was the god of wine, fertility and drama. Similarly the word Epicurean derives from the philosopher, Epicurus (270 BC.), who denied the existence of any after lives or other worlds and said that we must live so as to content ourselves and others. Epicurus and his philosophy have been controversial for over two millennia. One reason is our tendency to reject pleasure as a moral good. We usually think of charity, compassion, humility, wisdom, honor, justice, and other virtues as morally good and pleasure as, at best, morally neutral, but for Epicurus, behavior in pursuit of pleasure assured an upright life. "It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honorably and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably and justly without living pleasantly. Whenever any one of these is lacking, when, for instance, the man is not able to live wisely, though he lives honorably and justly, it is impossible for him to live a pleasant life" [Epicurus, Sovran Maxims]. ...read more.


80-81). Instead of using words to tell his own life history, he dances it. Words are mere verbal sounds, which originate in rational thought. Movement is, in contrast to speaking or writing, fundamentally of the body. It is not just movement, it is insanity embodied in one's body language that Zorba represents. Verbal language is simply incapable of conveying Zorba's entire ideas due to the complex simplicity of them. Boss's asking Zorba to teach him to dance in the end of the novel is the symbolic representation of the completion of Boss's education by Zorba. "'Come on, Zorba,' I cried, 'teach me to dance!' [...] Off we go, then, Zorba! My life has changed!'" Boss has reached a spiritual level to comprehend and follow Zorbatic way of living life. The new realm of faith without hope and passion without fake ultimate compassion was formed in his soul and mind on the ruins of the mountain cable, symbolising false hopes and aspirations of the materialistic world. Zorba pointed to Boss at his real self, the Epicurean naturalist and materialist, who enjoys the moment and lives every day as his last. Boss inherited Zorba's Dionysiac religion. He is not afraid anymore to express his emotions and he wants to learn Zorba's language of dance. ...read more.


The fact that Zorba is a Dionysiac icon and a true Epicurean is strikingly manifested on the last page of the book, where Kazantzakis masterfully describes the dramatic death of Zorba. After uttering his last words, he stood up and "brushed us all roughly aside, jumped out of bed and went to the window. There he gripped the frame, looked out far into the mountains, opened wide his eyes and began to laugh, then to whinny like a horse. It was thus, standing, with his nails dug into the window frame, that death came to him" (p. 335). Even when dying, Zorba did what he felt like in that single minute. His last act of resistance against death and his superhuman strength in going to the window to gaze a last time at the beauty of the life and the world is a motion of his nature. His death is abnormal and crazy. Forcing oneself to stand, brushing away healthy strong people, digging nails into the window frame and whinnying like a wild horse is not what is associated with death bed scenes and this underlines the special personality and temperament of Zorba. To the end, Zorba remains himself, clearing to the Dionysiac personality and the Epicurean idea of total engagement in life. ?? ?? ?? ?? Emil Sierczynski Page 1 10/05/2007 ...read more.

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