Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
The major theme of the novel is the importance of love. The five people who lose their lives with the fall of the Bridge of San Luis Rey have all sought love during their life times; but all of them feel rejected. After their death, their loved ones realize their worth and try to cherish their memories and do good for others. As a result, even though five people die in a tragic accident, their love lives on.
The minor theme is that fate plays a great part in life. Five people, trying to make a new life for themselves and find happiness, are walking on the San Luis Bridge at the same time, when it breaks and kills them. All of them are related by the fact that they had sought love in life and been denied it. Although the adults were unknown by each other, they were ironically related by fate and circumstances.
Later, some of their relatives, who have learned to value the deceased, meet one another by chance, proving that fate does play a great part in life. Wilder also indicates that Brother Juniper's witnessing the accident is also an act of fate. "By a series of coincidences so extraordinary that one almost suspects the presence of some Intention, this little red-haired Franciscan from Northern Italy happened to be in Peru converting the Indians, and happened to witness the accident. And on that instant Brother Juniper made the resolve to inquire into the secret lives of those five persons that moment falling through the air."
The mood of the novel is largely somber, tragic, and ironic. The Marquesa, Esteban, and Uncle Pio struggle to feel loved throughout the novel. Just as they try to put some new meaning in their existence, they ironically lose their lives on the Bridge at San Luis Rey, intensifying the tragic mood. Wilder does, however, humorously expose some of the personality traits of his characters to break the somber mood.