Pre Note: I highly recommend this book to everybody, it's very short, only about 140 pages, but it is so moving and inspirational.
By The River Piedra I sat and Wept is about a young woman named Pilar who spends her days going to school, coming home, and then studying only to go back to school the next day. She leads a very monotonous life and has never left her hometown in the Mediterranean. One day she finds out that her childhood sweetheart is in town doing a religious seminar and attends only to meet him again, in the hopes of getting away from her rituals of life for a day. She is intrigued when she finally does meet him again, with his worldliness, and the drastic change between the boy he was and the man he is. Instead of the immature schoolboy, he is a religious leader with a following and goals. He travels Europe preaching his philosophies and people know who he is. He asks Pilar to join him on a few days vacation away from school, whether he knew it or not, the vacation lasts much longer. The whole novel, told from Pilar's point of view, tells of the journey that Pilar and her sweetheart take together throughout Europe. She is swept off of her feet by this sensational man who shows her that risks must be taken in life and boundaries are made to be broken. Although she is not willing to admit (at first) that she has fallen for him, she willingly accepts all of his challenges. At first she does this so that she may become more spiritually, emotionally, and physically closer to him. However, as the novel progresses, she begins to understand the true healing power of her own spirituality, and she creates her own challenges in order to experience the true meanings love and peace and religion for herself. The major themes of the novel are that boundaries do not exist, they are only set by your own conscience, that love never ceases to exist, only your willingness to accept it does and also, the religious aspect of the novel shows the strength and divinity in women as opposed to the more traditional view of God as a man. Although the novel is relatively short, it is packed with very eye-opening ideas and really thought provoking themes.
1. One of the main themes of then novels is letting go of "the other." "The other" is a negative force in your body that prevents you from taking risks and relinquishing power to higher forces, it also forces one to second guess themselves and question every action. Pilar, at first is unwilling to release "the other" in herself, but finally does and takes risks and faces new challenges. How can one balance societal rules with a conscience ("the other"). Should one be forced to ignore their passions in order to conform to societal rules? Is society too oppresive in its' need to control the actions of others?
2. Paulo Coelho expresses the differences between diction in Pilar and her lover in order to express Pilar's naive nature as opposed to her more mature counterpart. Pilar's words as well as her philosophy change towards the end of the novel. Why, perhaps, does the authour want to illustrate the naive nature of Pilar? What sort of message is he sending by changing this diction, as the novel also changes?
3. The novel expresses the theme that love is necessary for life. Coelho makes certain that the reader knows that he believes that love isn't just wanted, it's needed by the spirit. Although Pilar experiences pain from knowing that her sweethearts love for her will never be as strong as his love for God, she still can not release the feelings for him. She is confused on the balance between religion and love. From your own perspective which is more important to have, a sense of self awareness/spirituality/religion or love for yourself or another. Are they both equally important and Dependant on themselves or can they thrive better without one another?