Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On the day of the Italian invasion, the Cephalonians know the worst is coming. Kokolios and Stamatis clean a hunting rifle together, at last putting aside their ideological differences. Men expect to be beaten and young women expect to be raped. Father Arsenios finds his usual prayers aren't comforting. He asks God what he thinks he's doing and promises that if God won't help, he will. Dr. Iannis cuts an open letter to Hitler out of the paper and tacks it to the wall, like every other literate man in Greece.
Kokolios and Stamatis illustrate how conflict like the war has the power to bring people who are very different together over a common goal, if those people are willing to set aside those differences first. The fact that Dr. Iannis is one of many to cut out the open letter illustrates how people find connection and meaning through the written word.
Themes
History and Storytelling Theme Icon
Politics and Friendship Theme Icon
Dr. Iannis turns to his history of Cephalonia and writes about how the Cephalonians have a habit of comparing their many invaders to the horrendous Turks--who, on later reflection, weren't that bad. The British weren't that bad either; they were consistently awful but then made up for it later. He writes that he hopes the British will sweep in and save them this time, even if they've abandoned them now. When Dr. Iannis finishes, he boxes up his history and hides it in the trapdoor in the floor.
The comment about the Turks not being that bad in particular suggests that in the Cephalonians' minds, the Turks are more of a caricature than actual people who did them wrong. While the Turks were horrible to the Greeks, this implies that the Greeks' dehumanization of those invaders makes it harder to handle other invaders after that.
Themes
Power, Reality, and Absurdity Theme Icon
History and Storytelling Theme Icon
Politics and Friendship Theme Icon
At Drosoula's house, Pelagia sits shamefully with Mandras. She believes he's torturing her deliberately, as he spent days rigid and drooling, got up to celebrate a holiday, and then returned to bed, limp and yet able to resist being fed. Mandras asked for Father Arsenios and confessed that he had sex with the queen and that his legs were made of glass. Father Arsenios suggested they send him to the madhouse. Two days later Mandras tried to amputate his leg with a spoon and finally, on April 30th, asked Pelagia to read him her letters.
It seems entirely possible that Mandras is sane throughout all of this given his previous narration. This illustrates how hearing his story allows the reader to humanize him (even if Pelagia can't), as it makes it seem as though Mandras is punishing Pelagia for dehumanizing him when he first appeared at her house.
Themes
History and Storytelling Theme Icon
Politics and Friendship Theme Icon
Pelagia begins with the first letters and is privately aghast at them. Mandras glares at her whenever she pauses. As she reaches the letters where she begins to reprimand him for not writing, he throws a fit about not wanting to hear about how he disappointed everyone--but when she simply omits those parts, he complains the letters are too short. He angrily waves the last four-line letter at her. It reads that she's calling off their engagement, but she lies and tells him that it asks him to come back soon. He forces her to read the others and she makes up romantic things instead of reading her unhappy letters.
Mandras demonstrates his power over Pelagia here by forcing her to actively create the reality he wants for him. This allows him to reinforce the version of Pelagia he holds in his head and ignore the truth of the situation. His fits and complaints suggest that Mandras can't handle not being in control and not being obviously beloved by everyone, which again suggests he'll be vulnerable to abusing his power in the future.
Themes
Power, Reality, and Absurdity Theme Icon
History and Storytelling Theme Icon
Politics and Friendship Theme Icon
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Finally, Pelagia hears planes overhead and races outside. She watches Italian soldiers parachute down and then runs to Dr. Iannis. He remarks that they're in the middle of history and fetches a pencil and notebook. Slowly, the Italian soldiers begin to march through town, some waving to the Greeks and others making fun of Hitler. Kokolios raises a communist salute and is flabbergasted when soldiers return it. When an officer asks Dr. Iannis where Lixouri is, Dr. Iannis says in Italian that he doesn't speak Italian. A column led by Captain Antonio Corelli marches past and makes funny faces at Pelagia. She laughs, but Dr. Iannis tells her it's her duty to hate them.
Kokolios's experience with the Italian soldiers in particular suggests that these men may be more like the Greeks than Kokolios or any of the other villagers gave them credit for, given that there are clearly some communists among them. It's telling that some of the soldiers make fun of Hitler, as it implies that they understand that Hitler is ridiculous and think of themselves as victims of his hunger for power alongside the Greeks.
Themes
War: Horror, Beauty, and Humanity Theme Icon
Power, Reality, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Politics and Friendship Theme Icon