How effectively does de Bernieres manipulate the stories of classical Greek mythology to create a modern legend in Captain Corelli's Mandolin?

Essay by Sketch440 March 2003

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Captain Corelli's Mandolin is a novel that merges the storytelling skill evident in Homer's Odyssey with the issues of war that are emphasised in the Iliad. The combination of these two qualities is what, in my opinion, makes this book a realistic yet mythical portrayal of life during the struggle of war. Homer's psychological interest in the characters of the Odyssey, and the tragic portrayal of the Trojan War in the Iliad, are effectively reproduced in this modern understanding of the effects of political conflict in a war-ridden country. Both the Iliad and the Odyssey are independent as poems, and each has an atmosphere of its own, though they share the same background of the Trojan War. De Bernieres weaves the tragic tones in the Iliad with the novel-like storytelling of the Odyssey to create a three dimensional insight into the fates of his characters.

Louis de Bernieres, like Homer, is in essence re-writing history, and the novel begins with the chapter 'Dr Iannis Commences His History and is Frustrated'.

In this chapter we are introduced to the character Dr. Iannis, who is trying to write what he calls 'The New History of Cephallonia'. This, however, proves to be a problem:

'It seemed impossible to write it without the intrusion of his own feelings and prejudices. Objectivity seemed to be quite unattainable, and he felt that his false starts must have wasted more paper than was normally used on the island in the space of a year. The voice that emerged was intractably his own; it was never historical. It lacked grandeur and impartiality. It was not Olympian.'

Maybe this was one of the problems encountered by de Bernieres himself, the inability to write about past events without some form of attachment. The novel is dedicated to his mother and...