Monday, October 11, 2010

By The River Piedra I Sat And Wept by Paulo Coelho

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.

Discussion Questions:

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?


Hannah L 13-14 said...

To answer your third question, I think that it depends on who you are as to whether or not they are equally important, but for myself I believe that love for oneself or another is more important because of how little a role religion plays in my life. I think that loving another person helps you discover the other so you need to love yourself or someone else before you can really discover how important religion/spirituality is to you. I believe religion/spirituality depends on love because love helps you discover what other important aspects there are to your life so you need love in order to discover anything else about yourself or what is important to you.

allie s 11-12 said...

I completely agree with Hannah :) I've lived a life where religion doesn't play a role, but thats just me. It all depends on how u were raised and brought up. But love has been in my life forever. When loving yourself you have greater freedom to fully express yourself and just be you. When you express yourself more, its easier for people to appreciate and understand you. And when this happens one then can find self awareness, spirituality, and religion and truly love and appreciate them.

Cody H. 11/12 said...

I agree with the previous comments made by Hannah and Allie but from a different perspective. Religion has always played a major role in my life and its taught me that self-esteem and a loving, romantic relationship is entirely necessary in a righteous lifestyle. Love allows us to become more like God because He is capable of more love than the entire human race. Also, love is essential in spirituality because in order to love God, we must love his creations, foremost, humanity. Thus, Love and spirituality is a symbiotic relationship. In order for one to be successful, both must be functioning equally.

Megan L.11-12 said...

Hannah:1. I finally read your comment :]
2. I agree with you. Obviously you know already that I'm not a religious person even with my family's religious background.
In response to Allie and Hannah : While I am not religious, I do believe that there's a certain "spiritual" side of life that's not necessarily religious but more awareness than anything else. I think that in order to really be in tune with your own self you need to be able to care for someone else.

Megan L.11-12 said...

Cody : That's a very interesting and moving point of view. At one point in my life I was very religious, and while that's not how I view things now, I think what your point of view is, is what the novel is trying to show the audience. That love and religion need one another. This book is small, you should read it. :D

Hayley D 11/12 said...

I agree with all of the comments that have been made so far. I personally relate more to Cody's perspective on the discussion question. In my family, religion is a major aspect of our lives; therefore, I feel that love and religion are equally important. To me, it seems that love and religion are dependent on each other. Love must be present in religion in order to fully commit to any faith. We have to show love and respect for others in order to receive that compassion back in our chosen faith. On the otherhand, I feel that through your religion you are able to truly love others because you are able to discover who you truly are as a person. Upon knowing who you are as a human being you are fully capable of loving others to the fullest extent; therefore allowing good, stable relationships (romantic and friendship) to form. In my opinion, both are equally important to make the most out of all aspects of your life.

Megan L.11-12 said...

Hayley: I think you're totally right from a religious stand point. I mean, not that I currently know what to believe, but from the perspective I once had, what you're saying makes complete sense. Obviously the Bible states that love is essential to grow in your life and in your religion. In this novel, Pilar isn't sure whether she is religious or not, and whether or not she should follow her love or not in his religion. For people like her, how do you propose the love in their life reflects how they grow. Does that make sense? And I'm totally not being argumentative, I'm just brining the novel into the discussion. :D