Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Themes and Colors
War: Horror, Beauty, and Humanity Theme Icon
Power, Reality, and Absurdity Theme Icon
History and Storytelling Theme Icon
Politics and Friendship Theme Icon
Family, Opportunity, and Gender Dynamics Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Captain Corelli's Mandolin tells the story of the Greek Dr. Iannis, his daughter Pelagia, and the Italian Captain Corelli. It begins several years before the start of World War Two and closely follows the Italian occupation of the Greek island Cephalonia, though it also spans decades after the end of the war. In telling such a sweeping tale from a variety of both first- and third-person perspectives, de Bernières paints a rich…

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Because of the way in which Captain Corelli's Mandolin makes use of a variety of perspectives and narrative styles, it's able to explore how power functions from a number of angles: Mussolini, the fascist dictator of Italy, tells the reader directly about his plans to conquer Europe; Hector, the leader of the Greek rebel group ELAS explains how communist theory provides the justification for cheating and then killing Greek peasants; and Dr. Iannis

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Captain Corelli's Mandolin begins with Dr. Iannis working on "The New History of Cephalonia," his sweeping account of the island from ancient to modern times, focusing primarily on the various powers that occupied the island and the ensuing effects on the island's culture. As Dr. Iannis develops his account, however, he's frustrated that he cannot write like "a writer of histories"--in other words, without writing emotionally about what the island has suffered over the years…

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Cephalonia is home to people of all manner of political affiliations, in particular alignment with the monarchist Stamatis or the communist Kokolios. Yet despite spending years arguing with each other over the proper way to govern a nation, these two political theorists remain close friends and even die in each other's arms. The relationship between Stamatis and Kokolios is just one of a number of friendships in Captain Corelli's Mandolin that transcend political beliefs…

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Pelagia is a unique character in a number of ways: she's one of only a handful of female characters mentioned in the novel at all, and is also the only woman who, in Dr. Iannis's words, has learned how to think. Because of this, it's worth examining where women in general exist in the culture of Cephalonia, how Pelagia flouts these conventions, and what the consequences of doing so are. Ultimately, the novel suggests that…

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