The Bridge of San Luis Rey
"The Bridge of San Luis Rey," Thornton Wilder's second novel, won him the first of his three Pulitzer Prizes. The novel opens in the aftermath of an inexplicable tragedy--a tiny footbridge in Peru breaks, and five travelers hurtle to their deaths. Most townspeople think to themselves with secret joy, "Within 10 minutes myself...." But for Brother Juniper, a humble Franciscan friar who witnesses the catastrophe, the question is inescapable: Why those five? Suddenly, Brother Juniper is committed to discover what manner of lives these five disparate people led--and whether it was divine intervention that took their lives, or a capricious fate. Wilder maintained in his works that true meaning and beauty are found in ordinary experience. This is especially true of "The Bridge of San Luis Rey." From the very beginning to the stunning conclusion, the listener is absorbed into the individual stories of the five victims, and how their destinies intertwine.
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Part One - Perhaps an Accident
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently... Is there a word on this page you need to look up?
Notice the capitalization of the word "Intention." With this in mind, along with the context clues in the sentence, to whom or what is the word "Intention" likely referring?
Part Two - The Marquesa de Montemayor
Based on the details provided, what is the likely explanation for Clara's decision to marry someone that "required her removal from Spain"?
The Inquisition was an effort to force all people in Spain to convert to Catholicism. Anyone who refused was tried and/or tortured and punished.
Based on the details provided in this passage, which word best describes the Marquesa?
Notice what the author says about this young girl, Pepita. He wants you to pay attention to her, as you will "learn much" about her later...
Observe how the author characterizes the Marquesa here. To guide your understanding of the Marquesa, watch the following video on character development. What do you think the author wants us to understand about the Marquesa? (This annotation contains a video)
Based on the details provided, what can you infer about how Camila feels after apologizing to the Marquesa?
Make an inference based on the details provided. Why must Pepita suffer "small discomforts and practical jokes"?
Observe the parenthetical comment here. The author is giving us more details to help deepen our understanding of the Marquesa. What do we further learn of the Marquesa by the parenthetical detail?
Take a moment to reflect on how the Marquesa has been characterized thus far, considering both direct and indirect characterization. Using at least two examples from Part Two, explain how the author effectively characterizes the Marquesa.
Consider Pepita's letter. What do we learn about Pepita here?
Why might Pepita feel her letter was not brave? Do you think her letter lacked bravery?
What does the Marquesa learn or understand at the end of Part Two? Use at least two examples from the text to support your analysis.
Part Three - Esteban
Anaphora is a literary technique wherein the author repeats a word or phrase at the beginning of neighboring clauses. Anaphora is intended to emphasize words or ideas and has very old roots with its origin in Biblical Psalms. Can you find the anaphora in the highlighted line?
Based on the description of Manuel's actions, which of the following can you likely infer? Refer to the highlighted line for support.
Dramatic irony occurs when the reader understands something that a character does not understand. Can you identify the dramatic irony in this highlighted excerpt? In other words, what do we know about Manuel and Camila's "relationship" that Estaban does not know?
What type of conflict is Manuel experiencing in the highlighted excerpt?
What do you think Esteban means when he says, "I'm in your way"? What is the significance of this line?
Manuel finally reveals that he has secretly yearned for Camila for all this time. Consider the following quote from the famous Spanish playwright Federico Garcia Lorca's play, Blood Wedding, wherein the author writes, "To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.” What is your reaction to Lorca's statement of unrequited desire? In what ways might Manuel's unrequited desire for Camila influence his relationship with Esteban? Provide at least two examples from the text to support your analysis.
What does the author intend to convey when he states "And it would begin all over again"?
Why do you think Esteban lies here?
Watch the following video on denotations and connotations. Then, examine the highlighted excerpt. What words stand out as carrying strong connotations in this passage? What is the author's purpose in choosing such words? (This annotation contains a video)
Reflect back on the Marquesa de Montemayor's story from Part Two and then consider the highlighted passage. What theme may be emerging thus far in the novel?
Why does Esteban suddenly tell the Captain his real name here? What is the meaning or significance of this?
What can the reader infer about Esteban based on the dialogue in the highlighted passage?
The Captain, like Esteban, has experienced a significant loss. What do you think of the Captain's advice to Esteban here?
Take a moment to reflect on the objective point of view of this text. Although the novel is technically told in first person, the reader never learns about the narrator, nor does the reader hear of the narrator's subjective opinions. In what ways does this point of view enhance your understanding of the characters and the story? In what ways might a more subjective point of view change your understanding of the text? Evaluate these questions by using at least three examples from the novel to support your analysis.
Part Four - Uncle Pio
Do you remember Camila Perichole from Part Three? Pay attention to how the author is beginning to interconnect the characters from each of the parts of the novel. Where do you think these connections are headed?
What does the highlighted description and characterization reveal about Uncle Pio?
Based on the details in the highlighted passage, what can you infer about Uncle Pio and Camila's relationship?
What do you think of Uncle Pio's treatment towards Camila? Do you think his criticisms are truly helping her?
This highlighted reference to Jupiter is an allusion. An allusion is a reference to something, often literary or cultural, that has significance. In this allusion, Jupiter is the Roman name for Zeus, the God of all Gods. What message is the author trying to convey by alluding to Jupiter in this context?
Based on the details and context clues in the highlighted passage, to whom does "this strange beautiful bird" refer?
In your own words, summarize Uncle Pio's opinion of love. What is your reaction to his opinion? Do you agree or disagree? Support your analysis using at least two examples from the text.
The reference that she "invented some parents" implies that Camila tried to establish a better reputation of her family background in order to improve her social status.
Make an inference. Why do you think Camila is weeping here? Does her reaction to Uncle Pio connect with any of the themes from the novel thus far?
Which of the following statements best summarizes the events in the highlighted passage?
Foreshadowing is a literary device wherein the author provides a hint about what is going to happen. Do you think the lines "Go with God" foreshadow what will happen to Jaime and Uncle Pio?
Uncle Pio says they will rest when they cross the bridge. Why does this turn out "not to be necessary"?
Part Five - Perhaps an Intention
Based on the context of the novel, the original bridge that collapsed may have been a rope bridge, like the one represented in the image on the right. Compare the more ancient bridge with the modern day bridge on the left. In what ways are these structures similar? (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the description in the highlighted passage, Brother Juniper and the master in the University can best be described as __________.
Reflect back to Part One of the novel... Do you recall Brother Juniper's purpose for creating his book about the victims of the bridge collapse?
What can you infer about Brother Juniper knowing that "he smiled" when he died?
Think of the many connections among the various characters in the novel. Although the book centers on the tragedy of a bridge collapse, perhaps the author also wants to convey a message that there are "figurative bridges" among people that allow us to connect. Although the literal bridge caused a great tragedy, do you think these more figurative bridges are intended to convey a more positive message or lesson?
Review the highlighted passage. What major message (theme) does the author convey with these lines?
Read the following lines from William Shakespeare's famous play, A Midsummer Night's Dream: "Things base and vile, folding no quantity, Love can transpose to form and dignity: Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind: Nor hath Love's mind of any judgement taste; Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste: And therefore is Love said to be a child, Because in choice he is so oft beguiled."Based on the lines, summarize Shakespeare's view of love. Next, compare Shakespeare's view love to Wilder's view, as expressed in the final line of this novel. In what ways are the authors' views of love similar? In what ways are they different? Provide at least two examples from the text to support your analysis.