Literature Study GuidesEat Pray LoveBook 1 Chapters 1 3 Summary

Eat, Pray, Love | Study Guide

Elizabeth Gilbert

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Eat, Pray, Love | Book 1, Chapters 1–3 | Summary

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Summary

Book 1, Chapter 1

This first chapter opens on a November evening as Gilbert is on the first leg of her three-country journey—Rome, Italy. She is with Giovanni, her "Tandem Exchange Partner," with whom she practices conversational Italian. Learning Italian is her main reason for being in Italy. But right now, she wants to kiss him. She quickly stops her thoughts because she has declared celibacy for the year while she tries to get over her heartbreaks and restore her emotional balance.

Giovanni is 25, very handsome, and has a twin brother named Dario, who has become the lover of another friend Gilbert has made in Italy, Sofie. On this night Gilbert gives thanks that she is alone and resisting her primal urges.

Book 1, Chapter 2

As she kneels to give thanks for her self-control, Gilbert's mind flashes back three years to the moment she considers the real beginning of this story. It was also November, but it was cold, and she was miserably unhappy and kneeling on the bathroom floor of her large suburban house near New York City. She was sobbing as she finally admitted to herself that she did not want to remain married, live in a big house, or have a baby. Furthermore, she felt "overwhelmed with duty, tired of being the primary breadwinner and the housekeeper and the social coordinator and the dog-walker." So what she did was to start to pray to God.

Book 1, Chapter 3

Gilbert pauses from the narrative to explain her theory of God to readers. She says that the name she uses is not important in terms of any one belief system. She just finds the term God feels warmest to her, and she is used to referring to God as He. For her, God means love. If people push her to define the kind of God she believes in, her answer is "I believe in a magnificent God."

Analysis

Like the introduction, Book 1 has two subtitles: "Say It Like You Eat It" and "36 Tales about the Pursuit of Pleasure." Both get to the whole reason for this part of Gilbert's year-long trip. She is going to Italy to learn to speak Italian fluently and to learn how to allow herself to enjoy pleasure without guilt. As it turns out, eating will become her main path to pleasure, with speaking beautiful Italian taking an important backseat.

By opening with the sentence "I wish Giovanni would kiss me," Gilbert establishes that she is far from done with men. Even though her past relationships have driven her to the point of heartbreak, she obviously has not lost her interest in love. She seems to want readers to understand several things about her from the beginning: she is not some kind of sanctimonious religious fanatic who is interested in refraining from all pleasure or judging other people's belief systems. This year of travel is a special opportunity for her and she is being intentional about her choices, but she is by no means trying to cloister herself off from the world.

Gilbert creates confidence within her readers that she is fair-minded and as interested in others' well-being as in her own. She explains that she does not want to speak negatively about her ex-husband, nor to air their personal problems. She might be taking a "no holds barred" approach to sharing her own story, but she will not be airing other people's dirty laundry. This makes her seem genuine and likable—someone readers can feel relaxed about and relate to as a fellow human being on life's journey, with all of its joys and struggles.

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