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Theme of Love in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin Essay

From ‘How like a woman is a mandolin…’ (Page 303, chapter 42) to ‘…there is our timpani.’ How is the theme of love developed in this section and how does this link to the development of the theme in the novel as a whole? The theme of love is indeed an enigma in this novel. As the novel flows on, love is developing, but not necessarily on the right path. Our belief of love becoming a fully grown blossomed flower in this novel, takes setbacks every time we see an aspect of love. Many modern day lovers see love as being attracted to the complete person. A person, who loves someone, either loves them because of their personality, or their ability to make them feel happy. This is a complete contrast to the theme of love in this novel. In this novel, love is all about looks. Whenever we see a character in the novel preaching about their love to the reader, we see a highly detailed description of the looks of the person they ‘love’. We rarely see how the person makes them feel, we see how beautiful or sexually desirable the person is.

This gives the sense of love being artificial and not pure. We see this in this section, when Corelli is describing his proclaimed love for Pelagia. “Her head turns, a smile, an arch and knowing smile, and she has gone”. This shows how much Corelli is in ‘love’ with Pelagia, because he describes the exact shape of her smile. However, love of the looks is a type of love, which is also romantic, as a lover knows exactly what his love looks like, and that is what makes love, knowing the person you love inside and out. In this section, we see a mans love for a woman. Corelli proclaims his love for Pelagia in this short extract. Many would argue that de Bernieres has in this section portrayed Corelli as a typical man who has a twist. The twist being that Corelli is highly interested in music, which is not very masculine but he shows his manliness by stating his desire for Pelagia’s body. However, Italian men tend to be very interested in music and romance, which may be the reason of Corelli’s description of Pelagia in this short section. Corelli describes Pelagia’s body parts with comparison to his beloved mandolin.

Corelli does show to have many sexual desires for Pelagia. “At night I dream of Pelagia. Pelagia comes, undressing, and I see her breasts are the backs of mandolins moulded in Napoli. I cup them in my hands and they are cold like wood and arm like yielding mother’s flesh…” This quotation shows Corelli describing Pelagia’s body and comparing it to a mandolin. This is Corelli’s way of describing his love for both Pelagia and music, but it isn’t a very romantic way of portraying love, by comparing a woman to an instrument. He even goes into detail, by describing the temperature of his desire. Corelli also shows his patriotisms by mentioning Napoli which shows he is maybe missing home. With some of the descriptions Corelli uses to describe his love for Pelagia, it makes me seem that he is love drunk and not that his love is strong. He seems love drunk as comparing a woman to an instrument is not very romantic; however, maybe describing the beauty of a woman to the beauty of music from the instrument might be more romantic.

Earlier on in the novel we saw Pelagia and Mandras’ love for each other. This was love of the looks and was shared by both lovers. When Mandras first appears in the novel, he is presented as a potential love interest for Pelagia. However, there is an uneasy sense as to what is to come for their relationship. The fact that their love for each other develops so early on in the book, and the idealistic nature of this love leaves the reader with the impression that this love won’t lift off. In the chapter they meet, the chapter ends with the presence of war looming, which re-assures the reader’s belief that their relationship will be brief. They possess conflicting ideas and hopes and we are shown how different their personalities are. As previously mentioned, love in this novel has nothing to do with personality, as we know Pelagia fell in love with Mandras ‘Round bum’, and not Mandras himself. This proves the point of love of the looks, and to be more precise, love of the body parts. Mandras seems to feel he has adopted the role of a lover when he meets Pelagia.

By engaging in childish behaviour, such as imitating Tarzan by swinging from a tree, in order to impress Pelagia causes Pelagia to state, “He’s not a serious fellow”, and eventually later on in the novel, Pelagia falls out of love with Mandras. This proves that love won’t develop in the novel, especially because it is love of the looks. Maybe this is preparing us for Corelli’s love for Pelagia and how their love won’t develop as it is love of the looks. However, the way Pelagia, and possibly the reader, perceived Mandras is not an accurate picture of who he really is, as we see him become a man, when we witness the state he comes back from war in, and then goes back to war again, but this time at sea. As previously mentioned, love never does develop in this novel. There have been many opportunities for love to develop, especially with Pelagia, but love has never prevailed in the novel. Pelagia has been in love earlier in the novel with Mandras, but there love did never prevail.

Maybe de Bernieres doesn’t want love to last, as maybe he does not believe in romance and someone loving each other, or he may have had personal experiences with love. Also, the fact that Dr Iannis is a single father, even though his wife was lost to natural circumstances, highlights that love doesn’t really last in this novel. In this section, Corelli is very detailed and structured in the way he compares Pelagia to a mandolin. He even calls his Mandolin, Antonia, which makes him seem as if he’s comparing two women. We see his love for both Pelagia and Antonia by the duration he talks about them for. He compares Pelagia to the notes he makes on his beloved mandolin.

He states, “I think of Pelagia in terms of chords. Antonia has three chords that live together in the first three frets, doh, re, and sol…” This short quotation shows both his love for mandolins and also the depth of his love for mandolins. The title of the chapter, ‘How like a woman is a mandolin’ also shows that the chapter will be strange in some way, as many readers would read the chapter title and be amazed by how peculiar it is. To conclude, love does develop in this novel within the characters in the book, but not in the readers head. We the readers, see a developed artificial version of love, but not real, courtly love. This outlines the reader’s perception of love throughout the whole novel.


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