The widow who lives in town is the embodiment human desire itself. Pavli, the son of a village elder, is madly in love with the widow, to the point that it consumes his life. The narrator is also enraptured by the widow, despite trying to use logic to dissuade his desire. Her character is enshrouded in a vision of decadence, with many descriptions of her beautiful, dewy figure that smells of orange blossoms. When the narrator finally approaches her for a sexual encounter she is likened to a "wild beast" as well as an insect that devours males. These comparisons drive home the image of woman as a sensual seductress whose sole purpose is to simultaneously entice and ruin men.
Metaphor: "The Great Pearl"
The narrator meets an old, religious man on the beach and they speak on topics of faith and life's purpose. The old man describes the highest meaning one can achieve in life as "The Great Pearl"; he says that this pearl is the salvation of the soul. He explains how the salvation through Christ is far more valuable than any money or material possessions. This metaphor sparks something in the narrator, who thinks to himself how the Great Pearl has often "gleamed in the darkness" of his mind. It is an image that speaks to the purity and beauty that most humans seek.
Simile: Humans as Beasts
Several times throughout the novel, Kazantzakis likens humans to "wild beasts," particularly in reference to their mannerisms and desires. Zorba's character often uses this idea of humans as brutes to ridicule the narrator. "Man is a wild beast, and wild beasts don't read," he says to the narrator, indicating that man's primal nature doesn't lend to scholarly pursuits. The narrator likens men to animals when speaking of his friend Stavridaki; in one instance he writes, "We played and scratched at each other like wild beasts," to describe a conversation in which neither the narrator nor his friend could be direct or show their true feelings. His analysis is based on a general belief embedded in the story that men are primal creatures, no matter how civilized they pretend to be, and that more often than not our instincts are what drive our decisions.
Simile: The Night Sky
On Christmas Eve, Zorba and the narrator attend a church ceremony and afterwards walk outside and admire the night sky. The stars are described as "large as angels above the dome of the church" and the Milky Way is said to be "flowing like a stream from one side of the heavens to the other." This celestial beauty stirs the emotions of the narrator and prompts a philosophical discussion between him and Zorba. Throughout the story, nature and cosmos frequently evoke a sense of the wonder of life, suggesting that beyond the ideas of men there is always a greater mystery that cannot be captured through language.
When the narrator tries to get Zorba to open up about his past marriages, Zorba obliges and begins a lengthy story about his various affairs. He classifies most of his marriages as dishonest or half-honest at best. He defends this by decrying honest marriages, comparing them to a "dish without any pepper." This crude take on relationships is indicative of Zorba's attitude towards women, as well as his resistance to commitment to anything that might bind him or prevent him from living fully in the moment.
Zorba the Greek Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Zorba the Greek is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.