Abstinence and indulgence in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin Characters to be seen: Carlo Captain Corelli Mandras Father Arsenios Pelagia Doctor Iannis
Father Arsenios He was notorious for having been an adulterer and for having come from Epirus because he wanted to remarry. He was suspect of being interested in widows, an extremely unethical and blasphemous idea for the Greeks. His infamy also arose from the fact that he often consumed irreligiously large volumes of alcohol, particularly Robola wine. The priest was also extremely fat, and his movement was described as “waddling”. As a consequence, he was continually perspiring heavily. He was an unorthodox priest who abstained from normal religious practice, but the Greeks still sought him for comfort and guidance. His indulgence in food, drink and women stopped, however, with the arrival of the war, where he instantly became immensely indulgent in religion, God and philosophical and utopian ideas. By the end of his life, he was a thin man who had turned insane with his constant maniacal preaching at the Italians and Germans. Father Arsenios’ case is a strange one, because it shows a complete reversal in the things he indulged in and those which he abstained from. Greek church Cephallonian farm
Pelagia She is forced to abstain from sex with Corelli (she never appears to desire sex with Mandras) because if she were to have a child, it would be illegitimate. Marrying the captain was out of the question, for if he were to get killed, she would be an unwanted widow for the rest of her life and she would be called a whore, as the doctor curtly points out to her. Besides, the child would grow up fatherless. She also demonstrates an enormous capacity to love a person (although, quite often, she does not seem to show it). This is proven by her relationship with her father and her love for the captain (and previously Mandras). One could say she brims over with love, but it would be incorrect to say she indulges in it, for indulgence is excessive and usually damaging. Pelagia is certainly not a damaging person. What is sad is that she became damaged. Pelagia never indulges in anything, but she has a passion for several things, such as medicine and everything she feels very attached to, particularly her goat and her father. Cephallonian beach
Dr Iannis Dr Iannis can be seen as a man who does not go to extremes very often, he abstains from being too conspicuous, except when it comes to religion, according to Father Arsenios who accuses him of being a “notoriously godless man”. An example of this is his views on his politics, where he is a moderate venizelist. However, he enjoys criticising politics, especially when he goes to the kapheneion to stun people like Kokolios with “his devastating critique of Communist economics.” The doctor is a professional man who has a loving passion for medicine and Cephallonia, which he has transferred to Pelagia. He is not obsessed by medicine, though, because he leads a relatively varied life and rarely does anything in excess. As a rather romantic and wet sort of view, the doctor can be seen as a man who indulges in life and beauty. The doctor is evidently a generous man who is against the beating of women and the other types of immoral treatment inflicted upon them in most Greek households. However, he seems to abstain from any type of useful work except for his medical practice. All the housework and physically demanding labour is performed by Pelagia.
Carlo Although he was huge in strength and size, Carlo never harmed anyone (except in battle) and always appeared as a gentle, quiet, modest and saddened man. This was because he was a homosexual and had to keep his sexual desires to himself, because he would be expelled from the army, publicly humiliated and mentally devastated. Consequently, he had to abstain from many of the “fun” activities engaged in by “the boys of La Scala”, and, as a result, from the life he would have liked to live without having to feel uncomfortable about his sexual desires. Cephallonian beach Another beautiful beach In his farewell letter to the captain, Carlo sadly says: “I hope you are not disgusted, and I hope that you will be able to forgive me and remember me without contempt. I hope that you will remember all the times that we have embraced as comrades and brothers, and that you will not shudder with retrospective horror because they were the caresses of a degenerate... I trust that for this you will not despise me as some might think that I deserve.” Fiskardo Carlo never indulged in anything, nothing was ever excessive, if anything, there was not enough in his life. He was alien to the rest of his world, but only to himself: he could not let himself be free, he had to abstain from a more worthwhile life in order to fit in and not be ostracised. Although some people would have understood, like Corelli, he simply could not take the risk of publicising the fact that he was a homosexual. Background: sunset in Cephallonia
Captain Corelli Argostoli some centuries ago The captain is a very emotional and passionate man who appears as a very good-humoured, entertaining and respectable invader. Although he is initially made to feel like a flea by the doctor, the latter learns to ignore the fact that he is an invader and labels him “our charming yet uninvited guest.” Corelli’s life is his music, and everything else falls behind it. He also loves the army, women, football and observing the world around him, which is what makes him such a culturally rich man, even though he has not travelled round the world like the doctor. Pelagia notes this and desperately falls in love with him, but she does not realise this until the episode in which they go on a quest for snails. A small harbour, possibly Fiskardo or Argostoli It is difficult to say that Corelli abstains from anything, since his life is so varied and colourful. He is, however, forced to abstain from sex and marriage with Pelagia for practical reasons, but this does not prevent them from loving each other. I do not think the captain indulges in anything because he does not need to. Although music is his paramount passion, it is not an obsession, and hence not an indulgence. He does not do anything in excess, like most characters.
Mandras Mandras thought he was not doing anything useful with his life and that “Doctor Iannis doesn’t think [he’s] good enough.” While fishing, he thinks “I love Pelagia, but I know that I will never be a man until I’ve done something important, something I can live with, something to be esteemed... I’ll be worth a dowry then.” He was very excited and anxious to marry Pelagia, but he sensibly thought they would be better off marrying after the war. Consequently, Mandras (and Pelagia) had to hold themselves back in relation to their sexual desires. During the war he fought alongside Hector, who brainwashed him, turning him into a violent, ruthless and mindless Communist. Together with Hector he killed “collaborators” and raped women in order to satisfy his primitive necessities (he had been seeing Pelagia for about a year and they had not slept together. Besides, raping was routine procedure). So, while with ELAS he ceased his long abstinence. His animal behaviour became so violent that he was unable to control it. When he got back home he saw Pelagia and couldn’t resist his impulses. By that time he had indulged so long in murdering and raping that he tried to violate her just like the peasant women he had disgraced previously. It could be said that by the time he was idolising Hector he was abstaining from a true, moral and useful life. He became what he had sworn never to be. Bay with chapel in the background
Most characters do not indulge in anything, most human beings do not. Excesses are negative and to be avoided, hence a non-indulging person is usually decent and likeable. Many characters have vivid and varied lives without indulgences of any kind, but, sadly, they also have to abstain from certain things that would complete their existences. Having to do this eventually ruins the happiness and even the lives of certain characters such as Carlo and perhaps Pelagia and the captain. The limitations they have to keep to are the product of the war, which is one of the many ways the novel illustrates the horrors and the misery caused by the useless and counterproductive dreams of a few tyrants. Corelli bluntly and rather pathetically points out that the war was going so badly for the Italians because “the Duce got some big ideas.” More to the point is the explanation given in the pamphlet produced by Carlo and Dr. Iannis: “This Ludicrous Buffoon has rearmed Germany, Belgium, and Austria, leaving His own army to fight scandalously unjustifiable wars without weapons... This Moral and Intellectual Pygmy... Has said “The more enemies, the greater the honour,” and so we have created enemies out of thin air and gone out to fight them without boots on our feet, and in armoured cars whose barrels are made of wood...” Rafael Holt