Sunday, August 20, 2006

Captain Corelli’s mandolin – Greek Mythology

Cephallonia, a Greek island with an interesting history happens to be the stage for Louis de Bernières bestseller Captain Corelli’s mandolin. This Greek island is defined by the atmosphere that is only found in this corner of the world. The setting provides an unique feeling, a feeling also encountered when reading Greek mythology. The Mythology of this country was and is still influential, well-known and appreciated by a lot of people. The mythical figures and their heroic stories of war, love, betrayal and hatred bring about a magical glow that seems to interest people. In this book the writer tries to bring back this same glow and even make the context correspond with some of the most famous parts of Greek Mythology.
Apart from the Greek, Cephallonian surroundings, that still look the same as in classical times, the characters themselves are linked to mythological figures. These links are both direct and indirect. Directly linked are the character descriptions, these detailed descriptions of the various characters are found throughout the book and go into the characters quite deeply. And the writer pays special attention to this and explores the character’s personality and opens up the values that the different characters see as important. For instance Captain Corelli has a lively and emotional personality, he enjoys music instead of following every rule given by his commander. He tries to make the best of every situation. He tries to make the faces that he sees around him smile, and is displayed as a real entertainer.
Furthermore each character has his/her own moral and his/her own qualities. In the eyes of Corelli, moral is very important value, but in the eyes of Gunther Weber being loyal to your superior is of higher value. This also has to do with the fact that every one of the characters has a real goal in life, just like the characters in the Greek mythology. An example is the comparison between Corelli (the main character of the novel) and the god Zeus (the main character in Greek mythology). Corelli has as goal to entertain himself and the people around him and he is seen by others as an entertainer. Zeus also has a clear role, he was the one ruler of the gods and he is to watch the other gods and put them in their place. People and other gods saw him as the kings of all gods, and this was known by everyone. As you compare them you see that they have things in common on some fronts, as pointed out above, especially a goal in life and a role in the community. This states a link between Greek mythology and Captain Corelli’s mandolin.

This is not the only way in which we can find modern manifestations of mythological figures in the book. To begin there are striking similarities between the mythical figure of Apollo and Captain Antonio Corelli. Apollo, the most handsome god of all, was god of the sun, of medicine, of music, of poetry and all of the other fine arts. On top of that he was the inventor of song, the strings game and poetry. These characteristics show many similarities with those of Captain Corelli. Corelli also is a musician and a singer, accompanied by the boys from la Scala. And he also is a charming man, he is loved by the girls. He possesses this same natural charisma that the god of the sun has.
Aphrodite is another mythical figure that can be compared to a character in the book. She is the goddess of beauty, love, laughter and marriage. Aphrodite was very beautiful, and because of this she had a bad attitude towards others. King of gods Zeus punished her for her bad behavior and made her marry the least important god of all. After some years she decided she would forever make up her own mind, and let no other tell her what to do, so she split from her husband. It is obvious that this figure can be compared to Pelagia. Pelagia is also considered beautiful and gets lots of attention from men. In the book she also has relations to love and marriage, the other two things Aphrodite stands for. And on top of that they both split from their husband (Mandras and Hephaistos) to fall in love with someone else (Captain Corelli) , and this shows that they both were very independent women, that had a clear mind of their own.
Then there is the heroic mythical figure of Odysseus, he is a well known figure and he two shows characteristics that match with a character in the book. Odysseus is a war hero that went to fight a war for his country (Greece) at the city of Troy. They won the war after many years and he sets off on a long journey home with many obstacles and trouble. At his arrival home only a few of his people recognize him. His wife (Penelope) does not recognize him after these many years. He proves to everyone who he is by taking his own bow and shooting an arrow through the eyes of twelve axes. People now recognized their leader and he was back at the top of his empire (Attica). After a peaceful period spend in his homeland, he grew tired of sitting around and went out, even at an old age, to sail the earth on one of his ships. A voyage that he would not return from. Like Odysseus, Mandras also goes out, leaving his loved ones, to fight for his country. He too returns in a state that was different to the state that he left in, and is in the same way not recognized by his former lover (Pelagia). After some time he too goes out again to fight and see the world. So it can be said that they go through the same main points in their lives. In the analysis above you can see another pair of characters, one mythical and one from the book, these are Penelope and Pelagia. As you can see above they both wait desperately for their lovers to return from a war, and are both afraid for the lives of their lovers. They must have gone through the same emotions. And at the long awaited return of their men, they both do not directly recognize them. This is typical to both of the stories, and it certainly is not a cliché that can be found in any story. So there is little chance that this is just a coincidence.
Hercules, another mythical hero is the last of the row of figures that are related to one of the main characters in the book. Hercules is the son of Zeus, who had again been unfaithful to his wife Hera. Hercules was born in the city of Thebe. And directly after his birth he proved to possess great strength, he showed this by strangling two deadly snakes. Snakes that Hera had send to kill him to take revenge for her husbands unfaithfulness. Hercules caught them and killed them. As he grew up Hercules’ strength grew enormously. He grew up to be a tall, athletic, strong and clever man.
In the book there is a man that has almost the same physical characteristics, this man is Carlo Guercio. Carlo, a homosexual man, is also very tall and has this great strength two. Later Hercules is send for, to complete 12 dangerous missions. These missions are divided in two parts, the first six are on the peninsula of Peloponnesos and the other six are outside this peninsula. Carlo has a war to fight, also divided in two parts, the first part in Albania where he loses Francesco and the second part on the Island of Cephallonia. They both show great courage, Hercules by taking on these 12 missions and Carlo by saving the man he (secretly) loves, and they both succeed in these courageous tasks. They seem to have a lot in common but physically and mentally.

The natural and classical setting that the Greek island Cephallonia provides for the book, also brings the feeling that comes with this setting, which is tat of ancient Greek times. In which Greek mythology was very important for the people. There is proof, in the text above, that de Bernières also looked at the characters in Greek mythology, and used them to create the characters in the book.

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