Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is a novel that offers the reader a plethora of themes.
The reader is bombarded with images of war, love, romance and brutalities. Among de Bernieres many writing styles, the reader becomes aware of his use of irony. Within Chapter 63, one of the most emotive chapters of the novel, the reader sees the broken islanders piecing together their shattered lives in the aftermath of the Germans and the confusion and anarchy of the communists.Chapter 63, entitled ‘Liberation’ is about a war, which takes place in the island of Cephallonia, the chapter is full of tragedy aimed towards the Greek people from the Greek guerrilla force. The word Liberation means ‘to set free’ this is ironic because the Greek citizens became free from the Germans leaving but soon after were under rule from their own people. Another irony lies in the newspaper (run by the OPLA – Secret Police) called ‘Alithea’ (‘The Truth) which was full of ‘lies about their heroism and the cowardice of everyone else.’De Bernieres focuses on the themes of irony and tragedy, which can be noticed especially on Page 443.
The irony was that the actions of the Greek Communists were too detrimental even for the Communist supporters to vote for them as they were ‘permanently unelectable…
Communists could not bring themselves to vote for them.’ The author almost dictates his opinions to the reader, as this is what he seems to think has happened. Though de Bernieres despises the Communists dictatorial manner he seems to do the same with his authorial viewpoint of the events.The events of this chapter are atrocious, after the Germans had left the island ‘the celebrations began’ however, this was not to continue for long as the Greek Guerrilla Force – EAM ‘imposed themselves’ onto the Greek citizens with the aid of British arms. The actions were of a communist uprising which were deemed extreme from people such as Pelagia as she witnessed her father – a republican, being dragged away during the night by ‘armed men’ as the armed men came to the conclusion that as he was a republican ‘he must therefore be a Fascist.’Kokolios tried to ‘defend the doctor’ and as a result he was also dragged away ‘even though he was a Communist,’ the reason for this is that his actions had apparently betrayed the ‘impurity of his faith’ as though Communism was a religion.
Thus proving that no one was safe during the uprising.There is sheer anarchy throughout the chapter, the killing of the innocent as the communists ‘shot 114 socialist but non-Communist trade union leaders,’ the taxes rose for the benefit of the Communists and also amongst others the Communists ‘created 100,000 refugees.’However, the chapter ‘Liberation’ and the novel as a whole caused uproar to many readers such as the Greek citizens who said that de Bernieres novel is misleading. A Greek veteran – Vangelis Neochorotis stated that ‘de Berniere’s book is an insult to the whole Greek people,’ Seamus Milne wrote ‘Both Greek and Italian survivors testify that…the resistance give practical and armed support to Italian troops. De Bernieres at the time refused to comment but had said that one of the ‘.
..problems of historical novels is that people deluge you with information’ and he was ‘no longer as sure of everything as I once was.’I think that De Bernieres had forgotten he was writing a novel rather than a historic account, which was incorrect in many areas, and a lot more planning into the novel should have been taken before historical events were put in.
The effects of war had an impact on many characters in this novel, Arsenios being one of these characters. The name Arsenios in Greek terminology means ‘virile’ which are traditional male characteristics such as physical strength and a high sex drive. Being a Roman Catholic priest, to have a name meaning ‘virile’ can be ridiculed. He is not a religious man and ‘he no longer had any respect’ from the citizens of Cephallonia.
During Chapter 7 ‘Extreme Remedies’ the reader is introduced to a Chaucerian style Friar, one who insists of not wanting much but embraces gifts rather than purging himself of them ‘…
softe breed nat but a shyvere and after…a rosted pigges heed.'(The Summoner’s Tale) The Friar from this poem is saying how he would like only a sliver of bread but then a roasted pig’s head would suffice.The reader sees how gluttonous the father is as he consumes a great deal of alcohol and then pleads with Dr.
Iannis to help him. Chapter 39 ‘Arsenios’ deals with how he was saved by the war as his sins of greed, indolence and ‘alcoholic excesses… went into the graveyard of the past.’ He realised that he had failed God in the past and now God had failed the ‘Holy Land of Greece’ by letting the country into and out of war. Arsenios came to the conclusion that he could surpass God and do ‘for Greece what God had not.
‘ This was his salvation and to do this he relents religion therefore becoming a humanist, ‘He discovered within himself the gift of prophecy’ and so through the reader’s eyes he can be seen as a prophet.Arsenios dies knowing he has saved lives of others, he is burned on a stake giving an impression of a Saintly figure not dissimilar to Joan of Arc.Another life that war has effected is the life of Mandras. He enters ‘Liberation’ as an unknown person to Pelagia although she notices a resemblance between this man and what Drosoula looked like before the war. He too did not recognise this ‘frightened skinny girl’ until he heard her voice. Mandras’ brutality towards Pelagia is ruthless as he makes her read out the last letter that she wrote to him when he was away on duty for Greece. Once he knew she has made up her own version of the letter he ‘snatched it out of her hands’ and read out the actual letter. Then in an act of misogynistic rage he punched and kicked at her before beginning to tear off her clothes.
Soon enough Pelagia shot him with the derringer and it ‘cracked through his collar-bone,’ Drosoula entered Pelagia’s room and found Mandras almost weeping in self-pity. He tortured Pelagia out of his own inadequacies as war had corrupted him. He is indoctrinated with Communist values and they are cruelly at odds with the gentle nature of Pelagia. Drosoula then told her son that she disowns him and that ‘never in my life do I want to see you.’ Mandras’ death makes the reader feel sorrow for him as he enters the sea ‘he needed to be washed’ to wash away his sins.
De Bernieres wants to show how the effects of war can corrupt many people in different ways such in the way he did with Arsenios.His death leads to the question of him dying as a Tragic Hero or a coward running away from all of his wrong doings. Shakespeare’s character Hamlet had a fatal character flaw of vacillation which caused his death, so too does Mandras, he was stubborn, ignorant and finally gullible to believe the communists would be living a better life. Mandras’ faith also became insecure and eventually he gave up easily on God and how He turned ‘His face away and consigned us all to the malice…of the dark.
‘ He then realised from this statement that ‘we humans are blameless.’ Mandras also believed that he would liberate himself and the world through his beliefs, this then leading to his death. There is an irony in Mandras’ death as he set out to earn freedom with the communist group but he ends up with nothing ‘Everything had come to nothing, everything was lost.’Mandras’ death can be contrasted with the manner in which Arsenios was murdered. The language used for Mandras’ death is very emotive; de Bernieres uses pathos so the reader arouses feelings of pity and sorrow for Mandras as he reminisces of the good times fishing for Pelagia ‘his triumph when something fine was landed for Pelagia.
‘ De Bernieres continues to describe what Mandras is going through as the ‘draw of sand’ went across his skin and the wind ‘whipping’ against him, the language used is sensual, the reader is made to feel remorse for him.Arsenios’ death is during Chapter 57 ‘Fire’, his death is more grotesque compared to Mandras’ as after an outburst of anger he was finally stopped by a single soldier who came up behind ‘that crazy priest’ and fired a ‘shot upwards…exploding his brains.’ De Bernieres deletion of Arsenios seems unfair to the reader as the reader thinks it is a violation when Arsenios is killed and takes more of a liking to the character of Arsenios rather than that of Mandras.
The effects of war were catastrophic on the Cephallonian citizens and evidently it could be seen that war had caused an impact on many people.During ‘Liberation’ Pelagia was made to suffer by Mandras by reading out the last letter she wrote to him and then having to go fight off Mandras during the attempted rape. Mandras’ death means that she is now finally released of her duties to marry him and she is free, now she becomes liberated.
The Chapter ‘Liberation’ may not seem to the reader that people are free, but in the novel, the Communist groups may have thought that what they were doing was indeed liberation and so their reasons were justified. The irony of the chapter is in its title as at first view the reader feels that no one has been liberated. However, Pelagia and Mandras have both been liberated with different reasons.De Bernieres deals with the German patriots in a stereotypical manner. He describes the Germans as ‘brutally efficient’ this can be seen in Chapter 57 ‘Fire,’ where thousands of Italians had been butchered ‘Was it 18,752 litres of young blood’ that were diminished into the fire which held all the evidence. These actions may remind the reader of the Holocaust during World War 2, which saw many Jews, killed in the Nazi concentration camps.
De Bernieres contrasts the Germans and Italian soldiers during Chapter 30 – The Good Nazi, he describes the German soldiers as people who did ‘not understand irony, took polite offence.’ Whereas the Italians ‘did not feel inclined’ to the company of a German they were ‘putting their arms across each others’ soldiers.’ These soldiers, such as Carlo who died with honour saving his Captain, never gloated about the triumph of killing thousands of Greek people. The Germans however were not true soldiers as they did gloat over the war. Just as Mandras was brainwashed by the Communists of Greek, the Germans are also brainwashed into thinking that their race are superior to others and just like Mandras they are gullible and ignorant to follow a dictatorship.Gunter Weber seems to the reader as the only German soldier with a conscience as he is portrayed in a better light than the others are. He lets Corelli live instead of shooting him when the Italian soldiers were gathered to be killed.
De Bernieres has expanded this novel with many genres, irony, tragedy and comedy are vital towards the overall effect of the novel. Patriots of the other countries – Greece, Germany and Italy – have a major effect on the working of this novel by the ways in which they act towards each other and how they can each be contrasted with each other.However he fails to make clear of some important viewpoints which can be questioned by readers. The main focus point would be on the historical accounts he adds to the novel, he is distracted by making ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ an eventful novel that he soon makes it historically false.This novel can be classed as an epic as it contains war, love and many other genres, which give it an epic feel. The blockbuster version of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin lacks major parts of the novel, which are very important to the telling of this romantic war novel.