Literature Study GuidesEat Pray LoveBook 1 Chapters 19 21 Summary

Eat, Pray, Love | Study Guide

Elizabeth Gilbert

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Eat, Pray, Love | Book 1, Chapters 19–21 | Summary

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Summary

Book 1, Chapter 19

Gilbert admits that in Rome she does not feel like doing yoga. Since regularly doing yoga has been her "serious practice" for years, at first she is concerned. But then she gives in to her new daily rhythms, stowing her yoga mat "away in the bottom of my suitcase."

Book 1, Chapter 20

By October, Gilbert has made "a nice assortment" of friends. There are two American Elizabeths, twins Giovanni and Dario, Sofie from Sweden (Gilbert's best friend from Italian classes), the couple Maria and Giulio, and her "newest best friend," Luca Spaghetti.

Luca is an Italian tax accountant. He takes Gilbert to eat in great places that she would not otherwise find and to soccer games that she finds exciting. They talk easily about all kinds of topics.

Book 1, Chapter 21

In this chapter Gilbert muses about how difficult it was for her to be able to relax and enjoy what she had come to Italy to do—"to experience pure pleasure." She points out that the typical American is very different from the typical Italian when it comes to his or her approach to life. Americans are all about hard work; Italians know "the beauty of doing nothing." She also explains that she has Puritan guilt, which makes her question whether or not she deserves pleasure.

It took Gilbert several weeks to accept the fact that in Italy she was free to explore the question "How do I define pleasure?" Her answer was "to eat beautiful food and to speak as much beautiful Italian as possible." She characterizes this by describing a day in October when she had a few hours that she "will always count amongst the happiest of my life." What she does that day is to find a new market, with a particularly beautiful array of vegetables in a tiny stall. She chooses asparagus, conversing with the woman owner and her son entirely in Italian. She soft boils a pair of eggs, arranges them on a plate with the asparagus, some olives, several chunks of goat cheese, and some salmon. For dessert she selects a fresh peach. Then she just looks at the beauty of the food for a while before savoring every bite as she reads an Italian newspaper. When she hears her ex-husband's sarcastic voice mocking her in her ear, she answers him with certainty, saying what she does is no longer his business and that she is doing exactly what she needs and wants.

Analysis

As Gilbert describes her evolution as a person in Italy, it's important to notice that she is not completely reinventing herself. She is just becoming healthier. Her unhealthier aspects are falling away, but she is not completely losing herself. She refers to the positive elements of her upbringing; because of how she was raised, she is "dependable, responsible ... organized and efficient." She is still easily making friends, continuing to draw people to her and talking easily to them. When she chooses asparagus for her meal, she asks the woman to halve the bunch, saying there is "only one of me ... I didn't need much." She enjoys that meal as she is reading and learning, studying an Italian newspaper.

One part of her personality that Gilbert is successfully putting behind her, however, is her dependence on the approval of others. In Chapter 18 she realized the one person whose approval she really needs is herself. Now, in Chapter 21, as her "guilt alarm" goes off in the form of her ex-husband's disdainful comments, she is able to firmly dismiss the criticism and relax into her pleasure.

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