On the Pale Criminal

This section paints the portrait of a criminal who then confesses his guilt. He secretly wanted to kill, but convinced himself that he wanted only to rob, and therefore committed a murder-theft. Though he was perfectly capable of murder, he is repelled afterward by the thought of what he's done. His crime is not so much that he murdered but that he was driven to it by his weakness and was subsequently racked with guilt. At least his crime makes him aware of his weakness, which is more than can be said for most.

On Reading and Writing

A great writer puts so much of himself into his work, and writes at such an elevated level that most people cannot understand him. Though we might be inclined to think of such writers as serious, Zarathustra characterizes them as bearing a spirit of levity and laughter. He bemoans widespread literacy, since it has encouraged writers to simplify (or "dumb down," in our modern- day parlance) their work for the masses.

On the Tree on the Mountainside

Zarathustra speaks to a youth who feels isolated and frustrated in his struggle for independence. As he distances himself from others, he earns their contempt, and often feels self-contempt as well. Zarathustra encourages the youth, urging him never to give up hope.

On the Preachers of Death

Those who preach about an eternal life preach that life is suffering, but that it must be endured in preparation for the afterlife. As such, they are preaching a renunciation of this life, and so are preachers of death.

On War and Warriors

Those who pursue knowledge must do so relentlessly and with great discipline. Zarathustra likens this pursuit to war, and claims that it is in itself noble, having done far more for humanity than Christian virtues.


The chapter "On the Three Metamorphoses" gives us some insight into what Zarathustra means by "overman." The three metamorphoses seem to follow quite closely the path of a creative genius. Let us take the example of a painter. In the first stage, he must burden himself, like a camel, with the long and careful study that will lead to a technical mastery of his art and a deep understanding of his tradition. Next, like a lion, he must assert his independence, ridding himself of the influence of other artists. Finally, he must develop his own distinct style of expression, creating something totally new and personal. In this stage, the painter becomes like a child, because he has acquired a new innocence: any sign of past struggle is absent, and we see only what is new and fresh.

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