Who am I? This is a question frequently asked by those who are lost, confused, or in process of discovering their self-identity. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s story of self-discovery, Eat, Pray, Love, a woman none other than the author herself, embarks on a journey of discovery for happiness, God, and herself after a traumatic divorce which leaves her in a vulnerable, frightened, and confused state of mind. After a lifelong dream of travelling the globe, Gilbert attempts to find pleasure and balance in her life once again by taking on the thrill of travelling abroad to the countries of Italy, India, and Indonesia in hopes of fulfilling her life-long wish.
While in “the Boot”, she satisfies her hunger with the exquisite taste of Italy with Gelati and Pizza, learns the romantic Italian language, and invests her time in a heart-racing soccer game during which she discovers the true meaning of passion with the help of her new friends, who celebrate a loss by enjoying the eternal night of Italy at the bakery eating cream puffs. While Gilbert travels to “Gods Own Country”, she seeks God himself and after countless hours of dedication in her hidden Guru’s Ashram, she is finally able to see God through her meditations but discovers that she had been searching for God in everyone else but herself. She describes India not by its own beautiful blessings, but by Gods given blessings.
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In Indonesia, “The Simple Country”, she meets up with her well-known friend Ketut, who teaches her how to find balance in life through a city as simple as Bali or a city as hectic as New York City, and in return, she teaches him English. She becomes friends with Wayan, an Indonesian doctor and meets an ordinary Brazilian man, Felipe, who loves her with all his heart. The novel ends with Gilbert describing the overall success of the journey, in which she achieves exactly what she was looking for: balance and self-discovery. At the beginning of the novel, Gilbert experiences tensions between those whom she loved and herself. And it was as a result of the build-up of these troubles which created a strong sense of depression, which pushed her over the end and catalyzed her desire to entrain on the journey.
Gilbert’s purpose is to encourage people to ask themselves the same questions she asked herself during her endeavour for self-discovery and encourages the idea of self-reflection. The reader develops a bias toward Gilbert because of her lack of credibility that is a result of her illogical reasoning. My understanding of the concept of self-discovery that is presented is that the author stresses the importance of the journey while discovering oneself, that “journey to self-discovery” is not just a phrase that is coined, but rather a literal meaning of how one must embark on a crossing of several bridges and overcome obstacles in order to realize who they really are. Thus, in Elizabeth Gilbert’s motivational narrative, Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert depicts her quest for self-discovery and introspection through the author’s adhibition of syntax, including a mixture of simple and complex sentences used for the purpose of depicting her desires and reflecting upon the motives for committing to the idea.
Gilbert’s combination of simple and complex sentences demonstrates a desire and the following thoughts and consequences regarding the desire. This structure depicts a relation similar to that of a cause and effect. At the beginning of the novel, Gilbert articulates her desires and emotions, when she “wish[es] Giovanni would kiss [her](7)”. She then reflects upon this idea by stating that “there would be so many reasons why this would be a terrible idea” and goes on to say that Giovanni is “like most Italian guys in their twenties, because “he still lives with his mother.” This sentence structure enables Gilbert to express her emotions and thoughts about an idea in an unproblematic manner. The fact that she uses a simple sentence to demonstrate her ambitions reveals the simplicity and elementariness of the initial thought. But later makes a shift with the help of complex sentences to transition the simplicity to a level of intricacy.
This complex sentence consists of an independent clause, where the reflection is made, followed by a dependent clause, where she outlines the consequences of the reflection. A pattern exists throughout the novel in which a simple sentence is followed by a complex or compound sentence to reflect her thoughts about a previously acknowledged idea. By the evidence provided, one can infer that this syntactical structure plays a tremendous role in describing Gilbert’s inner sentiments during her extensive search for joy, God, and most of all, herself.
Gilbert uses anaphoras, pathos, and rhetorical questions for the primary purpose of emphasizing her desires, allowing the reader to understand her mentality, describing her journey, and appealing to the reader’s emotions. Although these are three distinct devices, they are all utilized by Gilbert to show her confidence or insecurity in taking the next step toward or away from self-discovery. Gilbert incorporates these anaphoras into her novel because it not only emphasizes her desires and fears but also acts as a step-stool or a gap in the road and a sign of confidence or a sign of loneliness. Pathos is seen frequently throughout the novel to show Gilbert’s feelings toward a specific person, place, or idea. We see this most often when she first encounters the beckoning scenery and landscape in the three countries.
As she arrived in Bali, she is appalled by the amazing town of Ubud, which is “located in the mountains, surrounded by terraced rice paddies and innumerable Hindu temples, with rivers that cut fast through deep canyons of jungle and volcanoes visible on the horizon”(217) She uses this pathos to allow the readers to travel and experience Gilbert’s self-transformation with her. Rhetorical questions, seen regularly throughout the narrative, give the reader an opportunity to have an unheard input and comprehend the types of dilemmas and tribulations being faced by Gilbert at the time. As she decides she wants to learn Italian, and speak life from a new tongue she questions, “Why not just bone up on the French or Russian I’d already studied years ago? Or learn to speak Spanish, the better to help me communicate with millions of my fellow Americans? What was I going to do with Italian? (32)” She asks these questions, not merely to involve the reader, but to depict the narrator’s true emotions about the language of Italian. By the evidence provided, it can be concluded that these rhetorical devices play a grand role in showing her emotions and ambitions in her journey to attain her proper self.
The story of Narayanan Krishnan mirrors the story of Elizabeth Gilbert because both characters entrained on a different route to discover themselves with the help of God and attained happiness in its path. Narayanan Krishnan was an award-winning, head chef for a five-start restaurant, with an opportunity to travel to Switzerland to cook abroad, with so much potential. After a few trips home to Madurai, India, Krishan began to realize he did not find any joy in his food and that cooking for money did not satisfy him. He saw homeless men and women with nothing to eat but their own flesh and waste products. Krishnan quickly quit his job and hoped to fulfill his new destiny.
Although the question remains whether one should search for their true identity or whether the identity should reveal itself to its character still remains a mystery, I believe that similar to the decision of Gilbert, one should seek their identity and during the journey acquire new traits that set the character different from the rest. Like Alan Alda, an American actor says “You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.”
Berger, Danielle. “Once a Rising Star, Chef Now Feeds Hungry – CNN.com.” CNN.com – Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. 2 Apr. 2010. Web. 04 Dec. 2011. <http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/04/01/cnnheroes.krishnan.hunger/index.html>.
Gilbert, Elizabeth. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. New York: Viking, 2006. Print.
“Self-Discovery Quotes, Sayings about Finding Yourself.” The Quote Garden – Quotes, Sayings, Quotations, Verses. 5 Sept. 2011. Web. 04 Dec. 2011. <http://www.quotegarden.com/self-discovery.html>.
Once a rising star, chef now feeds hungry
By Danielle Berger, CNN
April 2, 2010 6:32 p.m. EDT
Madurai, India (CNN) — Narayanan Krishnan was a bright, young, award-winning chef with a five-star hotel group, short-listed for an elite job in Switzerland. But a quick family visit home before heading to Europe changed everything.
“I saw a very old man eating his own human waste for food,” Krishnan said. “It really hurt me so much. I was literally shocked for a second. After that, I started feeding that man and decided this is what I should do the rest of my lifetime.”
Krishnan was visiting a temple in the south Indian city of Madurai in 2002 when he saw the man under a bridge. Haunted by the image, Krishnan quit his job within the week and returned home for good, convinced of his new destiny.
“That spark and that inspiration is a driving force still inside me as a flame — to serve all the mentally ill destitutes and people who cannot take care of themselves,” Krishnan said.
Krishnan founded his nonprofit Akshaya Trust in 2003. Now 29, he has served more than 1.2 million meals — breakfast, lunch and dinner — to India’s homeless and destitute, mostly elderly people abandoned by their families and often abused.
“Because of the poverty India faces, so many mentally ill people have been … left uncared [for] on the roadside of the city,” he said.
Krishnan said the name Akshaya is Sanskrit for “undecaying” or “imperishable,” and was chosen “to signify [that] human compassion should never decay or perish. … The spirit of helping others must prevail forever.” Also, in Hindu mythology, Goddess Annapoorani’s “Akshaya bowl” fed the hungry endlessly, never depleting its resources.
Krishnan’s day begins at 4 a.m. He and his team cover nearly 125 miles in a donated van, routinely working in temperatures topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
He seeks out the homeless under bridges and in the nooks and crannies between the city’s temples. The hot meals he delivers are simple, tasty vegetarian fare he personally prepares, packs and often hand-feeds to nearly 400 clients each day.
Krishnan carries a comb, scissors and razor and is trained in eight haircut styles that, along with a fresh shave, provide extra dignity to those he serves.
He says many of the homeless seldom know their names or origins, and none has the capacity to beg, ask for help or offer thanks. They may be paranoid and hostile because of their conditions, but Krishnan says this only steadies his resolve to offer help.
“The panic, suffering of the human hunger is the driving force of me and my team members of Akshaya,” he said. “I get this energy from the people. The food which I cook … the enjoyment which they get is the energy. I see the soul. I want to save my people.”
The group’s operations cost about $327 a day, but sponsored donations only cover 22 days a month. Krishnan subsidizes the shortfall with $88 he receives in monthly rent from a home his grandfather gave him.
Krishnan sleeps in Akshaya’s modest kitchen with his few co-workers. Since investing his entire savings of $2,500 in 2002, he has taken no salary and subsists with the help of his once-unsupportive parents.
“They had a lot of pain because they had spent a lot on my education,” he said. “I asked my mother, ‘Please come with me, see what I am doing.’ After coming back home, my mother said, ‘You feed all those people, the rest of the lifetime I am there, I will feed you.’ I’m living for Akshaya. My parents are taking care of me.”
For lack of funding, the organization has been forced to halt construction on Akshaya Home, Krishnan’s vision of a dormitory where he can provide shelter for the people he helps. Despite the demands and few comforts his lifestyle affords, Krishnan says he’s enjoying his life.
“Now I am feeling so comfortable and so happy,” he says. “I have a passion, I enjoy my work. I want to live with my people.”
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