Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mussolini summons an underling and asks him which is his good side. The underling agrees with whatever Mussolini says, so Mussolini sends him to fetch a mirror. He insists that it's important for people to see him as the Italian ideal. The underling returns with the mirror and Mussolini instructs his listener to find balconies so that he can be seen only from below. He gives orders to plant trees in the mountains--this will, he insists, create more snow and breed Italians cold like the Germans.
It's important to note in this chapter that Mussolini as the narrator leaves out his conversation partner's responses. In doing so, he makes himself seem even more ridiculous and self-centered, as it appears almost as though he's talking to himself. His ridiculousness is further reinforced by his order to plant trees; this so-called fact is clearly made up.
Themes
Power, Reality, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Politics and Friendship Theme Icon
Mussolini continues his tirade; he says that Italian Jews must decide whether they're Italian or Jewish and says they must enforce quotas on Jewish employment. He orders a salary freeze to keep inflation low, but also issues an order to increase family subsidies. Mussolini tells his underling that Fascist economics will work, even if they're observing the opposite. He asks his underling to tell the press that one of his generals lost a hand doing something heroic, not playing with hand grenades.
The comment about the press indicates that Mussolini has the power to control the press in Fascist Italy. This, in turn, allows him to control reality to an even greater degree. He reinforces this by insisting that Fascist economics work despite evidence to the contrary, an attempt to create reality in action.
Themes
Power, Reality, and Absurdity Theme Icon
History and Storytelling Theme Icon
Politics and Friendship Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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When Mussolini learns that a group of artists and intellectuals waiting outside wants to present him with an award, he asks that they be sent in. He has no idea who they are but deems them responsible for imaginatively representing the ideals of Fascism. When they leave, he rants about his foreign minister, Ciano, whom he believes is playing golf. When Ciano arrives, Mussolini greets him warmly and expresses interest in golf. Then, he turns the subject to the "Greek business." Mussolini notes that everyone is against Italy; the British have pledged to help Greece and Hitler is taking land without asking first. He insists it's important to pretend that there are indeed British bases in Greece, as it makes Metaxas, the prime minister of Greece, nervous.
The decision to receive the artists and intellectuals just to accept their award indicates that Mussolini is mostly interested in looking powerful and important, not in actually making connections with people. Again, when Mussolini speaks awfully of golf and then expresses interest in front of Ciano, it shows that Mussolini is willing to say whatever it takes to keep people engaged and close to him. This suggests in turn that the reader shouldn't believe anything Mussolini says.
Themes
War: Horror, Beauty, and Humanity Theme Icon
Power, Reality, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Politics and Friendship Theme Icon
Mussolini tells Ciano to fabricate attacks against Italy. He suggests they blame the assassination of an Albanian patriot on the Greeks and sink a Greek battleship and blame it on the British. He lists several other plans and complains that he has to do his military experts' jobs for them. Mussolini says that this must all be kept secret from Hitler. Suddenly, Mussolini starts screaming--a cat has entered the room. He won't be told that cats let them save on mousetraps and shoots the cat. He tells Ciano to clean up the mess and goes to take a nap.
The tirade against the cat makes Mussolini seem even more unhinged, and cruel as well. Especially when combined with his orders to fabricate border problems, this indicates that Mussolini only wants power and he's willing to do anything--including shoot cats, and possibly kill people, for no reason--to get it.
Themes
War: Horror, Beauty, and Humanity Theme Icon
Power, Reality, and Absurdity Theme Icon
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