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The Bridge of San Luis Rey ()

Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century (37)

When the Bridge of San Luis Rey collapses, in Peru in 1714, and five travellers plummett to their deaths, Brother Juniper asks, "Why did this happen to those five?"  Wilder proceeds to tell us the stories of these travellers & we are asked to examine whether there is any reason that God would choose these specific people for this fate.

I remember reading this book in Junior High or High School and not getting it; I'm afraid I still don't.
I suppose the book's well written, but I just don't care that these people die and the ultimate lesson we're left with--there is a bridge of love that binds the living and the dead--just seems completely platitudinous.


Grade: (C)


Thornton Wilder Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Thornton Wilder
    -VIDEO: Our Town for Our Time: How Thornton Wilder’s Play Speaks to a Changing America and Around the World (Library of America, 5/02/22)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: A Reader’s Guide to Thornton Wilder’s Neglected “The Eighth Day” (Daniel J. Sundahl, June 24th, 2023, Imaginative Conservative)

Book-related and General Links:
The Thornton Wilder Page
    -REVIEW: Harry Levin: Global Villagers, NY Review of Books
         The Journals of Thornton Wilder, 1939-1961 selected and edited by Donald Gallup and foreword by Isabel Wilder
          The Enthusiast: A Life of Thornton Wilder by Gilbert A. Harrison


piece of crap, end of story.

- bookh8er

- Aug-27-2006, 15:23


I am sorry to those of you who do not grasp the purpose of this book. While there are portions that are wordy, the overall moral of the story, intertwined with the passion of each character, is where the beauty lies. I am an English teacher, and I have used this book for the past six years in my American literature class. My students are skeptical at first, but they quickly fall in love with their own feelings about each character. They are disgusted by the Marquessa, feel pity for Pepita, mourn with Esteban for the loss of his brother, and cheer the Perichole's downfall. Please re-read this book with an open mind.

- englishteacher

- May-14-2006, 21:01


This Story is very interesting that we can not stand not to finish it up to the end. But we also get a bit confused about the content in which somehow it misleads our understanding.

- Annie & Theresa

- May-10-2006, 03:00


i agree with rory. just because you could not find meaning in it, does not mean this is a poorly written book. i actually did find meaning in it, as we have an excellent Humanities teacher at my high school and she was able to guide us along to make our discoveries

just a side note- did anyone realize that the Bridge of San Luis Rey is chronologically incorrect?? when the Perichole went to apologize to the Marquesa, Pepita was present and was arond 14. by the time the accident happened, the Perichole had already had 3 children and her son was 14 when he died. pepita also died in the accident and was only around 15 or 16 at the time.. this is so weird..

- n

- Oct-02-2005, 11:20


I, myself,am a highschool student and have found that this is an excetionally well written book and just because you did not find the meaning in it doesn't mean that it should be poorly rated book. You should rather, ask someone who understands the book to rate it for then you will find that this book definitely deserves a better rating than it received.

- rory

- Nov-08-2003, 14:17