Zorba the Greek

Zorba the Greek Irony

Madame Hortense Believing Zorba Wants to Marry Her

When Zorba is away for an extended trip to Candia, Madame Hortense begins to worry about whether or not he will return. Although Zorba has viewed her as just one of the many women whose body and sensuality he enjoys—without any more serious connotations—she sees Zorba as her knight-in-shining-armor, a possible husband after a lifetime of short-term and unfulfilling romances. The narrator, seeing her suffer, concocts a lie about how Zorba is intending to propose to her and is making arrangements for their wedding while in Candia. This is a cruel joke, as it is not at all based in reality; Zorba is actually staying away longer because he has partnered up with a new lover.

Crossing Oneself After Committing a Horrible Deed

Several times throughout the story, there are instances when peripheral characters cross themselves—a sign of reverence to Christ. Ironically, however, their crossing is frequently less of a devotional act and more so a sort of apology or form of protection from the crude deed they have just done. For example, the two women who pillage items from Madame Hortense's house right after she died do this gesture as a means to redeem themselves. This false piousness is especially humorous considering that the Madame's corpse is still in the house and yet the old ladies are already trying to exploit her death.

Monks Obsessed with Worldly Things

Zorba and the narrator approach the mountainside monastery, expecting a serene place of devotion and high ideals. Instead, they find a group of men who are perhaps more vile than the people of the village. The narrator is surprised to hear the monks speaking about current affairs and requesting newspapers to be brought from town. The irony of so-called spiritual disciples being so absorbed by the mundane and trivial is something emphasized repeatedly in the story, for purposes both humorous and dramatic.

The Narrator's Business Venture

The narrator's quest to develop the lignite mine on Crete is ironic considering his love of and complete absorption in transcendental philosophy. Buddhism, his main ideological interest, advocates for detachment from worldly concerns in pursuit of spiritual purity. That the narrator spends part of his days entranced by Buddhist literature and the other part directing and organizing his mine project speaks to his uncertainty and still divided loyalties in life.