In her book Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert uses humor, sarcasm, and wit to make her biographical story more relatable. Because she is not afraid to describe and share the humorous and sometimes embarrassing things that happen to her on her journey through Italy, India, and Indonesia, we are able to find not only her journey, but also Elizabeth herself, more relatable.
Elizabeth arrives in Bali to fulfil the prophesy of the medicine man and to balance the pleasure experienced in Italy and the devotion experienced in India. But she quickly realizes that travelling to a completely different country to live with a complete stranger requires more than just a name. In her own words, Elizabeth realizes “Maybe I should have though all this through better.” (216). It is humorous to think about not only her experiences navigating Bali with nothing more than a name of a supposed spiritual healer, as well as her witty descriptions of the people and places of Italy and India. These tidbits of humor that appear in her thoughts make her travels and experiences more universal. We can’t all be paid to travel to three different countries to eat, meditate, and write about our experiences, but all relate to being in an unfamiliar place and not knowing what we are doing. For example, when I was 7, my family visited Epcot in Orlando. It was such an amazing experience, walking through the different “countries” of the world. But the humor associated with travelling was present when my father and I split from my mom and got lost. We were in Morocco, but he believed we were in Mexico, leading to my mom’s relentless search for us in the wrong country.
I also found Gilbert’s use of self-depreciating humor to make her a more relatable protagonist. Her funny comments about her incompetence help remind the reader that the purpose of her book is less to discuss her travels but more to talk about her personal growth in a time of extreme struggle. Through wit, she shows the reader her flaws. She is not the perfect world traveler, speaking the language of the places she visits. Instead, she travels through Italy for the sheer purpose of fulfilling her desire to learn something new and enjoy doing it. The humorous story about her first day in Italian school, where she “smugly [walks] past all those Level One students” and then begs “in very clear English” (43) to be moved down into that Level One class shows that she is nowhere near perfect. As a matter of fact, this example shows that she is struggling academically and emotionally, as well as being a bit judgmental. Because of the flaws she humorously describes to the reader in the form of stories and random thoughts in her head, her audience wants to keep reading to watch Elizabeth grow emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.
Overall, the humor based from Gilbert’s flaws is what makes Eat, Pray, Love a success. The relatable-ness of her totally un-relatable journey is what keeps her audience coming back for more.