Zorba the Greek

Zorba the Greek Literary Elements


Realism, philosophical fiction

Setting and Context

Crete, in the 1910s

Narrator and Point of View

First-person narrator, the unnamed protagonist's point of view

Tone and Mood

Contemplative with moments of dry humor

Protagonist and Antagonist

Protagonist: the narrator and Zorba. Antagonist: the narrator's own confusion, the strange and immoral people of Crete.

Major Conflict

The main conflict is the narrator's own search for the meaning of life and his (as well as other characters') inner turmoil regarding personal morality. Secondary is the effort to develop the lignite mine despite dwindling resources and difficult circumstances.


The narrator, against the wishes of his mind, finally goes to the widow's house for a sexual encounter; he is reborn as a man more integrated in his sexuality and spirituality.


Pavli complains about the cruelty of the widow, foreshadowing his later suicide due to heartbreak.




The parable of Adam and Eve, as well as other Biblical stories, are frequently mentioned. The lessons of these stories are often distorted from their original meaning, and in this form become vital in the worldview of the Orthodox Christians who inhabit the village.


Rich descriptions of the island of Crete are featured throughout the story. The imagery of the sea and wildlife especially serves to elucidate the emotions experienced by the characters.


The narrator feels his most happiest just as he has lost everything: his business prospects, his money, and his lover.


The narrator and his friend Stavridaki undergo similar realizations about the meaning of life and friendship while separated geographically.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

Venus is referred to repeatedly as the "evening star"; man is referred to repeatedly as a "wild beast" or creature.


The night is personified when it is described as having hair that is "streaming with dew."