Monday, March 20, 2017

Relatable Gilbert

One thing that struck me about Eat, Pray, Love is the way Elizabeth Gilbert tells her story. I found myself identifying with just about everything she said simply because she tells her stories the same way my friends and I do. For instance, my fiancĂ©, Jason, was a very thoughtful child—a born philosophy major. When I read the part of EPL when Liz turns ten it actually made me laugh out loud because the same thing happened to him when he turned ten. They used the same phrase when describing their experiences— “metaphysical crisis” (151). They both take somewhat serious events in the life of a child and turn it into a humorous story. The way Jason tells it, he was all ready to have his tenth birthday party, but when his friends started arriving he ran into his room and burst into tears under the weight of all of the change. When he tells the story, and when Gilbert tells her version, you can see the tiny child with wide, tear-filled eyes contemplating their own mortality. Explaining it like this in a blog post doesn’t do a good job of conveying just how silly the stories are to the audience despite the serious subject matter of the tale.
Another aspect of the novel that struck me was how Gilbert dealt with anxiety, loneliness, and depression. As someone who suffers from acute anxiety, I can truly relate to feeling like they’ve “been living in a giant trash compactor of anxiety” at certain points throughout my life (29). While going on a soul-searching journey after a messy divorce isn’t exactly comparable to adjusting to life in college (800 miles from home), I found myself drawing quite a few comparisons between how Gilbert and I describe that feeling to others. I tend to use humor to lighten the seriousness of those feelings as to not make other people feel uncomfortable. I’ve even personified the feelings of depression and loneliness to better describe the feelings to others, though I’ve never gone so far as to give them their own little personalities. Again, she takes something serious and tells the story through a humorous lens to make the reader more receptive to what she has to say.

Gilbert’s method of story-telling is similar to the other authors we’ve read in class. A common theme seems to be cropping up: veiling the serious with humor to make it more palatable for audiences. Making people comfortable seems to be in the forefront of these authors’ minds as they impart their wisdom to the reader. They want to make their experiences as universal as possible while still retaining the authenticity needed to make their works unique to them. Eat, Pray, Love succeeds in this because the three sections of the book are universal experiences in themselves. Everyone has eaten, prayed, and loved—or at least had some experience in at least one of these areas. Since the themes of the novel are already so familiar, the story feels like it’s being told be a close friend instead of just another author. In my opinion, Gilbert succeeds more than the rest at this endeavor because she is telling the most relatable story.

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