In the very first chapter of the novel we are introduced to Iannis, this immediately alerts us of his importance as De Berniere’s felt he needed to present him first, at the first mention of Pelagia we are made aware of their relationship and reliance upon each other, at this point specifically Iannis’ reliance on her to purchase oil “as long as Pelagia had remembered to purchase some more oil for the lamps.” At this point we are not made fully aware about who Pelagia is but we are given a detailed introduction to Iannis. We are made aware that Iannis is an educated man due to his use of vocabulary “orifice”, “recalcitrant”, and the presence of Stamatis and his wife tells us not everyone on the island is as educated as him as De Berniere’s makes a point of having Stamatis’ wife not understand Iannis “The old woman nodded with every semblance of having understood, which she had not.”
The second mention of Pelagia can be seen as ‘sweet’ Iannis is writing about the beauty of women and pauses to appreciate the beauty of his daughter “remembered his wife, as lovely as her daughter had become,” this tells us he appreciates the beauty of his daughter but it also tells us his wife has died, which is a crucial factor to the depths which Iannis and Pelagia’s relationship goes.
It is the closing interaction between Pelagia and Iannis in chapter one which tells us the most about Pelagia, Pelagia’s goat has eaten Iannis’ writing but when he tells Pelagia his aversion, she simply responds with “you’re as fond of him as I am,” after ignoring his first remark to announce dinner. As her first presentation De Berniere’s has made us aware she is the homemaker for them as she purchases the oil and she cooked dinner but he has also presented Pelagia as a strong empowered woman who is willing to talk back to her father in a somewhat cheeky way, very clearly against the Greek traditions however as their argument continues it is clear Pelagia is not afraid of her father and that her father does not react in a dictatorial way, “Dr Iannis turned away, disarmed and defeated.” their relationship can therefore be seen as democratic, De Berniere’s may have done this on purpose to reinforce his negative views on fascism, this view can be supported by the fact the next chapter focuses on the Duce and fascism.
De Berniere’s refers to their relationship as “they have a tiny democracy” this contrasts the wider themes in the novel of fascism. This relates more specifically to the character of Iannis again, who is against fascism but can also be seen to be the one who thinks himself in power in their relationship. De Berniere’s emphasizes that their relationship is the key relationship in the novel so perhaps he was emphasizing how democracy works; this is furthered later in the novel by the introduction of Corelli, who despite being a captain in the Italian army is also against fascism and shares many of Iannis ideals.
De Berniere’s makes us subtly aware of Pelagia’s admiration of physical beauty before introducing Mandras, with her admiration of Velisarios, “but everyone admires strength and is seduced by it, including Pelagia.” It is brushed over quickly as everyone is shown to admire strength however it can be questioned why De Berniere’s chose to specifically name Pelagia at this point, it may be that De Berniere’s was foreshadowing the tragic end to Mandras’ and Pelagia’s relationship due to the foundations of physical beauty.
We are also made more aware of Pelagia’s position in society and her relationship with the people of the island “Pelagia was living up to her reputation as a scold.”. De Berniere’s reinforced the strength and wilfulness Pelagia has but he also makes the point that the society do not give women status and makes it clear that it is her father’s status that has allowed her to behave like this “the fact that her father was the doctor gave her the kind of status that even the men were forced to respect.” De Berniere’s has done this to present Pelagia as a strong character with status in the society but who is outside of the Cephallonian society in her ideals due to the way her father has raised her, we can see from Iannis’ histories in the first chapter and his treatment of his daughter that he is also an outsider of the society in his beliefs but the island accept them because he is a doctor.
Iannis foreshadows the demise of Pelagia’s relationship with Mandras, “I have often thought that you would only ever be able to marry happily with a foreigner.” De Berniere’s has shown Iannis has an intense understanding of his daughter which she herself is not yet aware of, however despite his opinions he doesn’t intervene in Pelagia’s choice and allows her to make her own decision regarding the marriage, This shows he trusts Pelagia’s judgement and has raised her educated to make decisions herself. De Berniere’s reinforces the view here that Iannis and Pelagia are outside of the Greek traditions as a traditional father would be happy to dictate the terms of marriage to their daughter.
If we compare the relationship of Iannis and Pelagia to that of Penelope in Greek mythology with her father Icarius, we can see their relationship is far less tragic and more ‘sweet’. Icarius loved Penelope so much that when it came time for her to leave after her wedding, he couldn’t bear to part with her. Iannis shows this same love “The doctor squeezed her hand and said sadly, ‘I don’t know how I’ll manage when you’ve gone.’” However De Berniere’s shows him to be ambitious for Pelagia as well, “He isn’t your equal.”
At this point De Berniere’s has established that Pelagia was raised by her father, her mother died when she was at a young age; this leaves the question of whether Pelagia felt deprived of motherly love. When betrothed to Mandras we see her interaction with Drosoula, Mandras’ mother who is happy to accept Pelagia like a daughter and is proud of her intelligence, ”Kyria Drosoula looked at her admiringly.” possibly because she is not as educated herself. De Berniere’s himself says Drosoula was “exactly what Pelagia needed at that time.”
And it is clear that for a period Pelagia was reliant on Drosoula “Pelagia had found her way down to Kyria Drosoula’s house almost every day,” but as we read on we can see this is because of her concern for Mandras which she wished to share with someone and Mqandras’ mother was the one who shared Pelagia’s bonds of attachment, once mandras has returned and the affection is lost Pelagia no longer seems to need Drosoula or Motherly love. As we journey through the novel we find that Iannis provides th e love of a mother to Pelagia and ultimately Pelagia is glad for a lack of a mother as she has not had to share his love with anyone “my grieving father gathered in his love and gave it to me only,” This supports the view that Pelagia’s relationship with Iannis is the key relationship because it was more important than her relationship with Drosoula.
We are shown Iannis’ mothering Pelagia in a very appropriately named chapter “Dr Iannis counsels his daughter” however whether it can be considered mothering and presents the relationship as sweet is debatable. Iannis confronts his daughter very bluntly “It has not escaped my notice, Pelagia, that you have fallen in love with the captain.” Within Greek tradition if a father was to find his daughter had fallen in love with a man when betrothed, their reaction would be different as Iannis points out, De Berniere’s shows us through this the understanding Iannis has of Pelagia. “I do know how it is. That is why I’m talking to you as one person to another, and that is why I’m not striding up and down shouting at you and forbidding everything, as a father should.”
This shows us that the relationship between Iannis and Pelagia is different because it transcends traditional family values. Dr Iannis recognises that his daughter’s happiness is much more important than any tradition. He does not forbid the relationship; neither does he encourage his daughter, he tells her to “pray for the liberation of the island.” Suggesting that she waits until the war is over before she develops or announces her relationship. Iannis is shown to have genuine concern for his daughter and makes sure to present her with all the risks “you will be called a collaborator” this shows a growth in their relationship, when discussing the proposal to Mandras, Iannis left Pelagia to make her own decision, De Berniere’s shows us that Iannis still trusts Pelagia to make her own decisions but now he is more wary of the consequences and wants to ensure she is aware of them also.
The discussion between Iannis and Pelagia is entirely upon the relationship Pelagia has found herself in with Corelli. Corelli was introduced as the captain of the Italian army and a character you would expect to have very strong fascist ideals however over the course of his stay with Iannis and Pelagia we can see that he is a gentle and caring character, not as you would expect from his position “ . We also see the evolution of his relationship with Iannis, who to begin with doesn’t accept Corelli purely because of his position and his “duty to hate them.” It becomes apparent over time that they are alike than first thought and it can be said that Corelli can be seen as a young Iannis, this may be why Pelagia falls in love with him. Corelli is also from an educated background and so Iannis and Corelli are able to talk about intellectual matters where Iannis and Mandras could not, although we are given the impression Iannis dislikes Corelli it can be said that Iannis’ directness and humour with Corelli such as when he teaches him Greek “he been making a fool of himself all day, raising his cap and smiling, and saying those terrible things.” is similar to the way he addresses Pelagia, someone we know he cares very deeply for.
Although the relationship between Pelagia and Corelli can be argued as one of the key relationships De Berniere’s makes it clear in ‘Pelagia’s Lament’ that her father was more important than any other man in her life, including Corelli “he was the only man I’ve loved that loved me to the end.” In this chapter De Berniere’s reveals more about Iannis than he has in any other chapter, he doesn’t present him as the traditional Greek father but he does present him as a very sweet father “he would tickle me until I felt nearly sick with laughing, and then he’d sit me in a chair and comb my hair.” De Berniere’s presents Pelagia’s lament as a summation of everything Iannis was, her father, her mother and her friend. And that shows their relationship to be very sweet.
In conclusion, I agree that Iannis and Pelagia’s relationship is the key relationship in the novel because it represents more than one relationship; it is the relationship of a father to a daughter but also a relationship between friends. De Berniere’s describes it as the key relationship possibly because it embodies his own ideals, their relationship is democratic and therefore conflicts fascism and it is also new and contrasts from Greek tradition. The extent to which their relationship can be classed as sweet is debatable, there are certain moments in the novel where their interaction is very sweet, particularly the introduction and end to the characters, we begin with Iannis admiring Pelagia but close with Pelagia admiring Iannis, however the journey their relationship takes has moments of discomfort and confrontation. Overall De Berniere’s has made their relationship realistic and testing but when looked at as a whole it can be said that their relationship was sweet.