Zorba the Greek

Zorba the Greek Imagery

Zorba's Charisma

The narrator is still getting acquainted with Zorba and is swept away by his new friend's confidence and charisma. One night, he has difficulty falling asleep, feeling down and like he has wasted his life. He can see Zorba outside their hut, who he can only discern by the "light of the stars." The image of Zorba "crouching on a rock, like a night-bird" and looking like the "chief of a tribe" inspires equal parts respect and envy from the narrator.

Sickness and Death

The scene of Madame Hortense's death is painted with the same sort of rich language used to flesh out the night sky and sea. She is described as being surrounded "blue vapours" and clinging to her pillow which is "stained with tears, saliva, and sweat." This vibrant imagery emphasizes that there is beauty in both life's sweetness and its sorrows. Like the rhythm of seasons, where nature cycles between blooming and receding, death is portrayed as an equally important component of life as birth, and thus should not be sugarcoated or denied. The Madame's ability to finally let go of her fear of death drives home the message of embracing the human experience in its totality.

The Sea

When the narrator first arrives at Crete, he spends much of his time wandering the island and taking in its beauty. He especially enjoys sitting by the water and losing himself in reading or meditating. As he contemplates the sea, feeling like a "seagull on a ledge," he describes his mind as first following the waves and then becoming a wave itself. His body is revitalized by the presence of the sea and he senses his heart beginning to swell. The powerful imagery of this landscape foretells the role that the primal force of nature will play in the narrator's awakening to a new vision of life.

Zorba's Song

A poignant moment ensues the night before the narrator and Zorba must part. Zorba sings an "old monotonous melody" right after they watch a shooting star streak across the sky. Zorba's song is described as coming from the depths of his being, "full of sadness and solitude." Listening, the narrator feels himself losing courage and his hope "slowly rotting." Zorba's ability to express himself through song and dance is alluded to frequently throughout the story, and the description of his final melody serves to illustrate how both men are emotionally reacting to their impending separation.