3 reviews

The Bridge of San Luis Rey
by Thornton Wilder

Published: 2003-04-15
Paperback : 138 pages
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6 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 3 of 3 members

This beautiful new edition features unpublished notes for the novel and other illuminating documentary material, all of which is included in a new Afterword by Tappan Wilder.

"On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into ...

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This beautiful new edition features unpublished notes for the novel and other illuminating documentary mate- rial, all of which is included in a new Afterword by Tappan Wilder.

"On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipi-tated five travelers into the gulf below." With this celebrated sentence Thornton Wilder begins "The Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of the towering achievements in American fiction and a novel read throughout the world.

By chance, a monk witnesses the tragedy. Brother Juniper then embarks on a quest to prove that it was divine intervention rather than chance that led to the deaths of those who perished in the tragedy. His search leads to his own death -- and to the author's timeless investigation into the nature of love and the meaning of the huma

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Discussion Questions

Questions from the Publisher's Reading Guide:
1. Wilder is often labeled an optimist, and some feel that this quality makes his work seem shallow and a touch sentimental. As one critic put it, "People talk of outgrowing Wilder." Do you consider Wilder essentially an optimist or a pessimist? In framing your discussion, consider the accidental deaths in The Bridge of San Luis Rey.
2. Several critics have pointed out that the characters in Wilder's plays are types -- the mother, the young girl, the embodiment of evil -- rather than realistic human figures. What about the characters in The Bridge of San Luis Rey -- the Marquesa, the Perichole, Manuel and Esteban, Uncle Pio: are they types too?

3. For his efforts to seek meaning in the accident, Brother Juniper is burned as a heretic. Discuss the role of religion in the book and Wilder's attitude toward religion. Consider not only Brother Juniper's fate but also the thoughts and deeds of the Abbess Madre Maria del Pilar and the apparent religious conversion of Camila Perichole.
4. In a sense, The Bridge of San Luis Rey can be read as a novel about meaning -- how we assign and perceive meaning, how accidents and coincidences take on meaning in our daily lives. What conclusions does Wilder want us to draw about the human endeavor to find meaning in the world?

5. Wilder once declared "I am not an innovator but a rediscoverer of forgotten goods." Discuss The Bridge of San Luis Rey in the light of this remark. What particular "forgotten goods" has he rediscovered?

6. The critic Edmund Wilson wrote that "Wilder occupies a unique position, between the Great Books and Parisian sophistication one way, and the entertainment industry the other way, and in our culture this region, though central, is a dark and almost uninhabited no man's land." Do you agree? Which aspects of his works do you find most sophisticated? Which most purely entertaining? As the entertainment industry comes to dominate our culture more and more, how has Wilder's position shifted? Does he seem more marginal today -- or more relevant and accessible and pleasurable?

Suggested by Members

Is the fate of Brother Juniper the ultimate disproof of the fairness of God's judgement which he wished to find?
All the victims of the accident of the accident left a "bridge of love" with the living loved ones.
Did Brother Juniper leave a "bridge of love" with any one living? Did his "bridge" transcend to a higher power? Was he a martyr?
by [email protected] (see profile) 09/29/16

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Member Reviews

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by Mary B. (see profile) 05/05/18

by javier f. (see profile) 09/29/16

Sadly and ironically Brother Juniper's fate disproved what he hoped to find, that God is fair and just. He was unjustly martyrized by the Church for showing the unjustness of God.

  "The Bridge of San Luis Rey"by Bren S. (see profile) 03/10/15

Faith and irony, the importance of love, and reflecting on our own mortality. A quick read that was to the point but full of discussion.

  "Philosophical short novel"by F Tessa B. (see profile) 06/26/12

3.5*** This is a moral fable in which Wilder tries to answer the question, “Is there a direction and meaning in lives beyond the individual’s own will?” He explores the characters’ motivations... (read more)

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