Consider the proposition that Dr Iannis
‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ is ultimately a triangulated love story, about a woman, Pelagia, who is stranded between two men, Dr. Iannis and Captain Corelli. Dr. Iannis and Captain Corelli have completely different trajectories through the experience of war; however both are transformed by war. It might be argued that either of these two men are the heroes within the novel, Corelli more-obviously for the simple reason that the novel’s title is about him, or a part of him, his mandolin.
A hero, in mythology and legend, is a man, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his bold exploits, and favoured by the gods. However in modern times a hero is a person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life as Iannis has. In this essay I will be arguing otherwise, that the Doctor Iannis is the hero of the novel. Dr. Iannis is the neutral, philosophical and moral force within ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’.
He is to be the author of the ‘History of Cephallonia’, a self-appointed role of documenting the spirit of the people of past and present on the island of Cephallonia. The conflict between the private and public (domestic) and minor with Meta are important themes within the novel and the Doctor’s difficulty with writing the ‘History of Cephallonia’ in bloodless and objective terms best emphasises this struggle because Iannis sees the world in subjective and almost private terms like any other person.
Through the ‘History of Cephallonia’ we see history retracted from the consciousness of the lives of individuals, the two worlds of history and myth become indistinguishable. “It was an island filled with Gods” interestingly, the Christian myth (monotheism) co-exists with the classical myth (polytheism) and the spiritual and divine come together. Doctor Iannis is a device for comical relief, and is the comic hero within the novel, this is best illustrated in the first chapter.
The first chapter shifts between a omniscient and all-knowing narrative viewpoint to the Doctor’s viewpoint. It commences with Doctor Iannis treating a patient, Stamatis, by rather humorously removing a pea out of the Stamatis’ ear. The doctor describes very simple situations in complex terms “you have an exorbitant auditory impediment”, his lexis is self-conscious, and he uses deliberately obscured literary language as a device for comic effect.
An evidently academic doctor purposely speaking to an unintelligible ‘old man’ in scholastic vocabulary is a prime example of absurdity, Iannis is very aware of this “his irony apparent only to himself”, and it becomes clear the doctor uses the language because it makes him seem mystical and mysterious to the simplistic villagers he has treated. Iannis’ idiolect also establishes his individuality.
The doctor is aware that his intellect imposes a dichotomy between him and the other villagers and throughout the novel he seems to embrace this higher ground granted to him by grateful villagers, however there is still an element of isolation especially since the absence of his wife, and ultimately his ‘gift’ ostracizes him and acts equally as a hindrance. Chapter eight “a funny kind of cat” exhibits Iannis’ social conscience and heroic qualities under ‘normal’ circumstances.
In this chapter Iannis rescues Psipsina; a pine marten, that Lemoni has found trapped. Iannis is sceptical at first; however as soon as he lays eyes on the little pine marten he feels “moved in a matter that struck him as quite strange and illogical”. Lemoni views Iannis as “the man to whom she had entrusted its [Psipsina’s] salvation”, it becomes evident that he has dedicated his life to helping and curing the living.
This extract is important because Iannis is going out of his way for something which any other adult would dismiss as ‘silly’, he is evidently very sensitive to people, and wants to make Lemoni feel happy, this juxtaposes the minor with the meta, and the connection of the minor details of individual lives with the great sweep of history. The doctor’s rational side emerges; he winces “at the thought of a bite”.
It is clear, however that he is at least going to try to save Psipsina, “No doubt the suffering of the little animal had upset him”. Iannis is very compassionate when handling the pine marten and it crosses his mind that it would be more humane to kill it, he even goes on to consider the means by which he could put down Psipsina while ascertaining that “there would be no suffering involved”.
Iannis shows an almost paternalistic concern for Lemoni’s feelings; he couldn’t “give it back to Lemoni for burial with a smashed skull” Iannis’ reverence and respect for life is shown here, and once again he realises that tiny incidents are of utmost importance to a little girl, who will at one point become an adult, many people tend to dismiss incidents as such as irrelevant and underplay what affect this could have on a person overall.
Iannis tends to the pine marten’s wounds, it fills “him with immense medical satisfaction” when Psipsina urinates on the knee of his trousers because indicates good body functioning. Iannis has a selfless “compulsion” to help and heal; this shows Iannis as a hero to not only the pine marten but to an impressionable and equally vulnerable little girl. The doctor’s nobility of purpose is unknowingly overt. Dr. Iannis emerges as Captain Corelli’s hero in chapter 58 “Surgery and Obsequy”. The door flew open… it had the narrative inevitability of a well-thumbed book”, Velisarios bursts through the door with a “pathetic bundle” in his arms, which Velisarios informs Pelagia is “the mad captain”. Pelagia runs to the kapheneion, where her father is seated “it was the first time that a woman had entered the kapheneion” a supposedly “sacred place for men”. Pelagia drags her father home, once Iannis sees the captain’s body he “knew he had never seen anything worse”.
The doctor goes as far to suggest the damage is so bad “it would be kinder to kill him”, Pelagia reacts badly “outraged and incensed” beating her father on the chest with both hands, this echoes the earlier extract where Lemoni becomes overcome “with indignation” when Iannis states “I think it would be best to kill it” in reference to the pine marten, this also shows the doctor as a humane and considerate person.
Pelagia insists that her father operates, “the doctor knew too much to be an optimist, and not enough to relieve his pessimism”. Despite the fact the doctor is not confident about going on with surgery, he still bravely attempts it “What am I supposed to do. I am not qualified. I am not a proper surgeon” we are also reminded that all the doctor’s credentials are from real life experiences and he has no formal qualifications, In Chapter sixty five “1953”, Iannis shows his capacity of courage by sacrificing his life to save his family.
In this chapter the narrator describes “a stupefying roar so far below an audible pitch that it was sensed rather than heard” going on to describe “the unspeakable rowling of the earth” that would never end, the language used here is apocalyptic, the earthquake is described like Armageddon is about to happen. At this point Iannis plunges out of the doorway and speaks for the first time “in eight years” warning Pelagia and Drosoula to “Get Out!… It’s an earthquake! Save yourselves! “.
There is an element of romanticism in the fact that Iannis breaks his silence to inform his family of something so important, an air of integrity is attributed to Iannis for this display of courage. Iannis is then violently thrown sideways, the two women lurch for the door. Pelagia, Drosoula and Antonia clutch each other for support once they have reached safety, the imagery here illustrates the matriarchy that will now take over, and the physical unity of the female characters at this point symbolises the spiritual unity that will arise as a result of and to overcome Iannis’ death.
The chapter closes on a description of the old house and the rubble it had been reduced to “it also contained the disillusioned soul and tired old body of the doctor”, there is the sense of doctor’s body being moved away with the rubble. In a blink Iannis is killed and man’s puniness in the face of nature is emphasised. Perhaps it is fitting that the doctor had repeatedly said throughout the novel “that we all owe nature a death”; he clearly viewed death as a part of life.
The description of his death is modest, stark and minimal one might argue that he is snuffed out the plot because it is incidental and understated. On the other hand the description of his death is symbolic of the doctor’s humble life, simple things such as accepting food as a payment for helping and curing people almost demonstrates his good heart. This extract shows that the true hero of the novel is Iannis.
In Chapter 67 “Pelagia’s lament” Pelagia establishes her father’s heroic credentials, this chapter satisfies a dramatic momentum because we have not heard her voice nor have we seen things from her perspective for a while because of her long silence in the book and this gives the reader the opportunity to assess Pelagia’s reaction to the death of her father, Pelagia describes her father as “the only man I’ve loved who loved me to the end, and never bruised my heart, and never for a single moment failed me. this chapter is an epitaph or a love letter commemorating her father. “He would tickle me until I nearly feel sick with laughing” Pelagia reminisces about her father and throughout the chapter and emphasis is placed on his importance within her life. Pelagia is haunted, guilt-ridden by the idea that she abandoned her father “Oh my poor father, who never tired healing, who could not heal himself”. However it emerges towards the end of the book that Pelagia preserves her father’s memory by finishing of his ‘History of Cephallonia’.
Furthermore Pelagia names her grandson Iannis, so the doctor’s spirit lives on in human memory, there is an element of magic realism in Pelagia referring to her grandson as Iannis “If you called it Iannis, it smiled and blew slimy bubbles that burst and trickled down it’s chin, and so Iannis it was” it is implied that fate dictated that three generations down the line it would be a fitting tribute that the youngest member of the new generation of the family is named Iannis. Iannis, throughout the novel, is represented variously as an adviser to others, capable of careful judgement and assured knowledge.
From the opening scenes, he is able to provide literal relief to the suffering. His role progresses to provide moral relief from the anguish of war, occupation and fraught love. Louis de Bernii?? res endows lannis with the ability to see through what others cannot. When he exercises his power as father, or as doctor, or as community spokesman, he does so with the interests of others at heart, this is none best demonstrate then by his reaction and response to Pelagia’s relationship with the captain of the occupying Italian force.
The Doctor Iannis evokes and commands a respect not only off the character from within but also from the reader’s of the novel. The Doctor is a self-made man and for an average villager has achieved a great amount, and ultimately Iannis climbs from ‘zero to hero’, the ultimate gesture that fuels his heroic credential is when he saves his family’s life during the earthquake.
Get access to
Guarantee No Hidden