Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Thus Spoke Zarathustra Summary and Analysis of Part 2, Speeches 1-11

The Child With the Mirror

The first speech of the second section begins much like part one did. Zarathustra, having left his disciples at the end of part one, returns to his solitary mountain and stays there for many years. Though he is lonely, he grows in wisdom. However, he has a dream in which a child comes to him with a mirror. Zarathustra looks into the mirror, but instead of seeing his reflection, he sees only "a devil's grimace and scornful laughter." He interprets this dream to mean that his teachings are in danger, that the enemies of his teachings have distorted his thoughts and led his disciples astray. His disciples are not mirroring his teachings in the correct way, which means the overman will not become a reality.

Zarathustra then begins to speak to the snake and the eagle on the mountain. He has broken his self-imposed silence, but he feels that it is necessary. He begins to use descriptive imagery to describe his return. He compares himself to a lake pouring into the sea and a warrior preparing to go into battle. He takes joy not only in the fact that he will be returning to his friends, but also in fact that he must destroy his enemies. Zarathustra knows that his anger will reinvigorate his teachings, even though his disciples might even be afraid of him. Zarathustra then leaves the mountain to return to mankind to give a new kind of wisdom to his disciples: a wild wisdom.

On the Blessed Isles

Zarathustra begins a new set of speeches not in the gentle way he spoke in part one, but in a harsh critique of the work that his disciples have tried to accomplish. Zarathustra reappears suddenly, comparing himself to a north wind that knocks down ripe figs from their tree. Zarathustra appears to his disciples during the fall season, but even with the beauty that surrounds them, he implores his disciples not to take joy in that beauty. Instead, he tells them to look forward to a future time, a time of the overman.

Zarathustra must remind his disciples that his teachings are for the coming of the overman and are not compatible with the teachings of Christianity or teachings of God. His disciples, it seems, had fallen prey to these Christian teachings. They have attempted to make Zarathustra's teachings into hybrid teachings incorporating a Christian version of the overman. Zarathustra strongly rebukes his disciples for this and tells them again that there is no God. He tells his disciples that "if there were gods, how could I stand not to be a god! Therefore there are no gods."

Zarathustra teaches his disciples again about the power of envy. Zarathustra knows that if God exists, the rivalry between his teaching of the overman and teachings of God would be unbearable. Instead, Zarathustra can see the future of his teaching; therefore, God must not exist. For Zarathustra, death is a better state of being than the possibility of unfulfilled accomplishments. In this teaching, Zarathustra again demonstrates the usefulness of envy.

To finish this speech, Zarathustra claims it has been the poets of the age that have created God or gods, and that "poets lie too much." Instead, Zarathustra compels his disciples to take glory in their death, not in their everlasting life. This is the kind of poetry, he muses, that will help to create the overman in this life. This is the kind of poetry Zarathustra himself seeks to create.

On the Pitying

In this speech, Zarathustra addresses those that think he has become too proud. Zarathustra tells his disciples that this kind of pride is appropriate for a "knower" like Zarathustra is. A person who does not know must compare himself to a person who does, but a person who is a "knower" can only seek to transform himself, ultimately, into the overman. This speech hints that the enemies of Zarathustra have made his disciples believe that they are foolish for thinking of themselves too highly. Zarathustra says this is not so. "It is better to do evil than to think small," he says. Zarathustra's enemies think small, but his disciples must become "knowers." Only then will they become the overman. The point of Zarathustra's speech is this: a person should not take pity on or identify himself with mankind. The only way to become the overman is to harden one's heart towards pity for mankind. Instead, one should show people the way to become "knowers" of the way of the overman.

On the Priests

As a group of priests pass by, Zarathustra takes the moment to show his disciples just how much the spirit of Christianity has distorted and manipulated the good intentions of mankind. The priests, Zarathustra says, are actually noble in intent, just as Zarathustra is. They are self sacrificing, just like Zarathustra, and they seek something higher, just as he does. It is not the priests' fault that they are misled. The notion of the Savior binds them to false notions of pity for mankind. The priests are Zarathustra's enemies because they teach mankind to be obedient to God and to the Church. Zarathustra teaches people to look beyond this to the goal of the overman.

It is not the priests themselves who are wrong; they have much inner strength, but they are misled by the nature of Christianity. Christianity makes them doubt what they think, putting emphasis on their hearts and on giving pity towards mankind. Christianity makes people believe that they cannot overcome themselves; they need the help of an outside God. Zarathustra teaches that one must become the overman by having a hard heart and envy towards those who are better. Christianity, Zarathustra says, is for those with a "sultry heart and a cold head," which are qualities not to be found in one of his disciples.

On the Virtuous

Zarathustra now addresses his disciples' disappointing behavior during his absence. Zarathustra mocks his disciples for thinking that they deserve something for being virtuous in his absence. Zarathustra says that there is no reward for being virtuous; not even virtue is its own reward. He tells them that their virtue should simply be a part of their being, not a series of acts done to gain some kind of reward.

Zarathustra is attempting to awaken envy in his disciples by treating them like children who do not understand. Though he explained in a previous speech that his disciples should be proud if they have knowledge that others do not, he now reproaches the pride that causes them to seek a wrong path on the way to the overman. The kind of pride that seeks reward from man is the opposite of the kind of pride that leads to the overman. Zarathustra tells them that though their virtue is like a child's toy, he will replace that toy with a newer toy with which they can play.

On the Rabble

Zarathustra then turns his attention to the masses of the unenlightened people. He admits that he actually abhors these people, calling them "rabble." This leads to a bigger, more existential question for Zarathustra: does life actually require this "rabble?" This is a sickening thought to Zarathustra because it presents the problem that all of humanity may not reach the overman if humanity needs the "rabble" in society.

Zarathustra finds comfort not in thinking about the necessity of the "rabble" but instead in envisioning a time when there will be no "rabble." One could say that Zarathustra is putting his faith in a time when the overman will rule, even if he is unsure that this future will exist. Zarathustra compels his disciples not to despair in the necessity of the "rabble" as he has done, but instead to envision their knowledge and their enlightenment that will "blow among (the rabble) like a wind and steal their breath away with my spirit...." Zarathustra's teaching is life to those who embrace it, but a death to the rabble who oppose it and cling to the notions of Christianity, God, and the society that has been created from them.

On the Tarantulas

Zarathustra gives his disciples a parable: a tarantula spins a web to coax its enemies into it. The tarantula then strikes with a poisonous bite. For Zarathustra, the tarantula is the teacher of equality, the one who says that all men are equal. But Zarathustra compares himself to the one who strikes at the tarantula's web in order to make it leave its cave. Zarathustra strikes at the teachings of those who preach equality in order to make them leave their caves and do battle with him.

Zarathustra believes that those who teach equality are preaching against nature. Nature, Zarathustra teaches, makes some superior to others. But the teachers of modern moral equality (i.e. - the teachers of Christianity and their descendants) proclaim that all people should be treated with justice as equals. This is foolishness according to Zarathustra. His disciples should not get caught up in such teaching. Zarathustra then condemns these teachers of equality as hypocrites. He says that all they lack "to be Pharisees" is power, yet through time and inequality they have actually gained that power. This is a distinction that Zarathustra says is key to understanding why he has to come back to his disciples. They were getting confusing his teachings and the teachings of those who promote equality.

Zarathustra does not promote equality. He promotes the overman: the very essence of inequality. One person must become greater than the others, and envy plays a crucial role in this process. Zarathustra says that life itself is always striving to become more powerful, to make itself higher than other forms and virtues.

By the end of the speech, Zarathustra says he has been bitten by the tarantula of the teachings of equality, but he leaves the interpretation of this metaphor to his disciples. He hints that revenge is the necessary reaction to being bitten by such teachings, but he tells his disciples to "bind him to this pillar," an allusion to Odysseus being bound to the mast of his ship so as not to be tempted by the siren's song. Here, Zarathustra does not want to be tempted into revenge by the bite of the tarantula of equality. He must continue on towards the goal of the overman and not be sidetracked by such things.

On the Famous Wise Men

This speech begins five chapters that deal with wisdom and the enemies of Zarathustra who posses it. This first speech, "On the Famous Wise Men," is directed towards a group that Zarathustra names only as "you famous wise men." Zarathustra mocks these men and their wisdom because, as he says, they serve "the people...and the people's superstition." He says that these men are not "free spirits" like he is. Their knowledge is self-serving; it only seeks to increase the wise men's fame and glory.

The importance of the speech "On the Rabble" is again shown here. The "famous wise men" are only famous because they give the people what they want. The reader is asked to imagine the great philosophers of the modern age and the political rebellion they put into place for the people. The desire to have the people lift them up becomes a stumbling block to these famous wise men, making them servants to the people. Now, Zarathustra says, they are tethered to their desire for fame and glory. They cannot be the free wind as Zarathustra is, and this is their folly and ruin.

The Night Song

This speech is actually a song sung by Zarathustra. It is the first song of the book. This marks a departure from the previous two styles we have seen in the book; that of narrative and that of the speech/teaching. The song gives the reader an insight into Zarathustra's personal thoughts and motivations from an interior view instead of having to construct his inner life through his teachings.

The song begins by lamenting the loneliness of being the only one that can bring this important teaching to the world. Zarathustra sees his calling as teacher to be both a blessing and a curse. He feels impoverished because his duty is always to give and never to receive, yet the love in his heart for mankind is beautiful to him as well. These are the things that both drive him and torment him. For the first time in the book we see Zarathustra's own envy. While he implored his disciples to envy those who have a great knowledge, Zarathustra himself envies those who receive. He wishes that he himself could be the one who receives and not the one who always has to give. The song ends as it began, at night and in darkness, and Zarathustra's soul again "breaks out of (him) like a well" and he desires to go and teach what he has discovered.

The Dance Song

Zarathustra is walking through the woods looking for a well when he comes upon a green field where he finds several girls dancing together. When they see Zarathustra they immediately stop dancing, but he tells them not to stop. He tells them that though they see in him darkness and fear, there is actually love in him and his teaching. To prove that he is not there to spoil their fun, he begins to sing them a song to which they can dance, a song with love in it.

The song is a playful conversation on a fishing trip between Zarathustra and an anthropomorphized character named Life. Life mocks Zarathustra for his teachings, saying that even if he cannot understand Life, she is not incomprehensible. Zarathustra is simply not sharp enough to comprehend her. There is a comparison here between the Wisdom that Zarathustra has been both proclaiming and battling and Life that he believes he cannot fathom. Life says that she can be fathomed only if Zarathustra does away with the necessities of Wisdom that he seeks.

Zarathustra sees himself as being caught in a lovers' triangle with Wisdom and Life, both calling him to abandon the other. This will lead Zarathustra to a greater revelation - the will to power - in part three. Life knows that Zarathustra loves her more than he loves Wisdom, but he is afraid to tell her. Zarathustra praises Wisdom, but she turns his praise on its head, suggesting that when Zarathustra praises his wisdom he is really praising life. It is clear that Life favors Zarathustra, though we are unsure at this point whether she has given her secret to him.

As the song closes, Zarathustra becomes sad. The sun has set, signaling the setting of Zarathustra's wisdom as well, and he is confused about what it is that he has been seeking. He tries to apologize to his disciples, but he has no answers for them. "Forgive me my sadness," he tells them. "Evening came: forgive me that evening came!" This signals a great confusion in Zarathustra's thought.

The Grave Song

The grave song is the last of Zarathustra's songs. This song, like the first song, is a song of solitude. The graves of which Zarathustra speaks are the graves of his past, parts of him that have died and lay out of his reach. As the song begins, Zarathustra decides to sail to these graves.

The first part of the song is Zarathustra's lament for the lost visions of his youth. He believes that these visions have been disloyal to him and have abandoned him. He then realizes that in actuality they have been murdered by his enemies. His youthful visions experienced the death that was meant for him.

The second part of the song is a curse on his enemies. Zarathustra condemns his enemies for stealing and killing his visions of eternity and the overman. He recounts all of the things he used to believe, explaining how all these ideas have been murdered. Though he realizes that he is no longer able to "dance...beyond all heavens..." he resolves to dance again and resurrect his hope.

The final part of the song is Zarathustra's resolution to regain those visions. Even though they have been taken from him by his enemies, he decides that he will no longer despair. Instead, through sheer force of will, he will regain those visions. Zarathustra realizes that "there is something invulnerable, unburiable in me, something that explodes boulders: it is called my will."

This song is an important turning point for Zarathustra. In it, the reader learns about his past before his first period of solitude. The reader learns that Zarathustra once had youthful visions but they were killed in him by the teachings of Christianity and modern society. Though those visions no longer exist, Zarathustra has made an important discovery: his will to power. What this will to power is and what it means will be explored throughout the rest of the book.