Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Oral Quality of ''Eat, Pray, Love''

In previous works we have studied such as ‘‘East/West’’ by Rushdie or ‘‘Things Fall Apart’’ by Achebe, we often associated storytelling (orature) with traditions and literature with the invading culture. For instance, in ‘‘Things Fall Apart’’ and ‘‘Potiki,’’ things were known in the indigenous culture because they were told. Also traditional values were kept because they were orally transmitted.

There is also an oral quality in Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘‘Eat, Pray, Love.''It does not really convey an idea of homeland, but rather the search for a new homeland and by extension of a new self, since she fails to enjoy her life with her husband in the home they had built together in New York.

When I read the book, I had the impression that the narrator was just next to me relating her experience abroad. This was the case, because Elizabeth Gilbert succeeds in translating the naturalness and the spontaneity of language. She mimics its rhythm by alternating long and short sentences, interrogative and exclamatory sentences. She also vocalizes her inner thoughts. The whole book illustrates this fact, and one example is found page 42. Before leaving for Italy, Elizabeth asks her American friends to give her a list of their Italian contacts. She writes: ‘‘Among all the nominees on my Potential New Italian Friends List, O am most intrigued to meet a fellow named…brace yourself…Luca Spaghetti (…) And that is honestly his name, I swear God. I’m not making it up. It’s too crazy. I mean-just think of it’’(Gilbert, 42). In this example, we can imagine the reader protesting that it was not the individual’s name, and Elizabeth replying back. By adopting a conversational tone, she creates an intimate relationship with the reader who tends to sympathize with her more, in the same way we sympathized with the Ibo tribe, or the inhabitants of Potiki’s village who were made known to us through storytelling.

But contrary to those inhabitants whose identity was well established, Elizabeth is trying to look for hers, or rather is questioning it and trying to redefine it, since she has already built hers. The series of questions she writes reflect this fact: ‘‘Wasn’t I proud of all we’d accumulated-the prestigious home in the Hudson Valley, the apartment in Manhattan, the eight phone lines, the friends and the picnics and the parties(…)? I had actively participated in every moment of the creation of this life-so why did I feel like none of it resembled me? (Gilbert, 11). In order to find the real her, Elizabeth has to leave her homeland and travel abroad. She says: ‘‘It was more that I wanted to thoroughly explore one aspect of myself set against the backdrop of each country (Gilbert, 30). She commits herself to a voyage of self-discovery. Storytelling allows her to describe the rebuilding of her own self to the reader.

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