Literature Study GuidesEat Pray LoveBook 1 Chapters 4 6 Summary

Eat, Pray, Love | Study Guide

Elizabeth Gilbert

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Eat, Pray, Love | Book 1, Chapters 4–6 | Summary

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Summary

Book 1, Chapter 4

Gilbert now returns to her memory of the night on her bathroom floor three years previous, when she became "interested only in saving my life." She had never spoken directly to God before, but now she begs for help. The answer she receives is simple ("Go back to bed, Liz."), but it is profound for her, and just the right response. It is a loving command, centered on her need to get rest, to take care of herself, and to regain her strength so she can deal with what life is handing her.

Book 1, Chapter 5

Seven months later Gilbert leaves her husband, but things only get harder. He does not cooperate in settling their affairs. Making her life even more complicated, Gilbert goes straight from her marriage to the arms of a lover, David. She describes him as "street-smart, independent, vegetarian, foulmouthed, spiritual, seductive." She falls desperately in love with him, and her best friend, Susan, immediately knows Gilbert is in trouble.

At first the affair is blissful. Gilbert and her ex-husband meet and weep together over the tragedy of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, but she does not return to him. Gilbert begins to unravel, and so does her relationship with David. She cannot conquer her grief, and he becomes "solitary as a castaway, cool to the touch." She becomes more and more needy, and he becomes more and more distant. As her breakdown continues, she loses about 30 pounds and barely sleeps. She compares her condition to that of an addict with "the complete and merciless devaluation of self."

Book 1, Chapter 6

Gilbert names three good things that happened during this desperate period in her life. The first is that she met an Indian guru and began practicing yoga, which is described more fully in the next chapter. The second is that she signed up for Italian classes, a language she had wanted to learn for years. The third, meeting "an elderly medicine man" who asks her "to come and live with him in Indonesia," is described in detail in a later chapter. Along the way, she also moves into her own apartment for the first time in her life and starts to sometimes feel she is "tottering on the brink of becoming a self-governing individual."

Analysis

At the end of Chapter 4 Gilbert points out that what began that night when she started sobbing on her bathroom floor is not a religious conversion but a religious conversation. This is an important observation, because throughout the memoir, she will talk to God and hear his answers. This moment is indeed the beginning of the story she tells of her year, as she continues to explore her own spiritual enlightenment and search for inner peace.

According to Gilbert's descriptions of her state of mind during this period, she is more than a little unstable because of the huge changes in her life. She is clinically depressed. Perhaps taking David as her lover is a type of self-medication, a way to elevate her mood, even if the relationship cannot be sustained. But it is also a very exciting relationship at first, like "every romantic movie you've ever seen."

Gilbert displays a complex mixture of strength and weakness that she will develop throughout the memoir. She is falling to pieces emotionally, yet she is doing the right things for herself. For the first time she asks, "What do you want to do, Liz?" And she gives herself permission to move away from duty to find ways to give herself some pleasure.
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