“Either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan.” In Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Brother Juniper strives to make this determination. Thornton Wilder may have also tried to ascertain this himself. As one of America’s most respected contemporary authors, Thornton Niven Wilder has received much
renown for his works, especially Pulitzer Prize winning The Bridge of San Luis Rey . Why Wilder wrote the novel and why the novel is so famous may be argued through his background and use of specific themes (Books).
Thornton Wilder’s background contribute to his way of writing as well as his outlook on life. In his novel In Life as we Live it, Wilder expresses his strong belief in the preciousness of life: ” Do humans ever realize life while they live it?” (Simoni).When someone asked Thornton Wilder about his purpose in writing The Bridge of San Luis Rey, he replied that he was posing a question: “Is there a direction and meaning in lives beyond the individual’s own will?” (Society).
The three principle influences on the writings of Thornton Wilder were his religious background, his love of classicism, and his worldwide travels. Wilder’s Family and homelife also affected his writing greatly, especially his father (Books). The time period of his life aslo brought influence on Wilder’s writing. During this time was World War II in which Wilder served and received
ideas. The reason for Wilder’s wide acceptance and large renown in society may be answered through the author’s Life influences, the time period in which he grew up, and the style and themes that he uses in his writing.
Thornton Niven Wilder was born in Madison , Wisconsin on April 18, 1897, as one of five children, one of which was his twin, of Amos Parker Wilder and Isabella Wilder.Thornton’s father was a newspaper editor, diplomat, and a strict Calvinist. His father had a great impact on Wilder’s writing.
In The Bridge of San Luis Rey, the Wilder said that the idea of the collapse of the bridge stemmed from arguments with his strict father. In 1906 the family moved to Hong Kong, where his father had been appointed American Consul General. After six months his mother returned with the children to the United States, but the family rejoined again in 1911 in Shanghai, where his father had been transferred. Wilder stayed in China for a year (Encyclopedia).
Wilder’s home life was characterized by a strong religious and intellectual atmosphere which allowed him to read expansively. This habit was the main ifluence in his career (Books). In 1915 Wilder enrolled in Oberlin College, where he studied the Greek and Roman classics in translation. Classicism played a major role in the works of Thornton Wilder. Classicism is the imitation or use primarily of the style and aesthetic principles of ancient Greek and Roman classical art and literature. In 1917 the family moved to to New Haven, Connecticut, and Wilder entered Yale University. He bagan to write The Bridge of San Luis Rey “on the winding walk from the golf club to graduate college.”
Although the novel asks the question of “why those five died?” Wilder states, “I have left this question unanswered. As I said earlier, we can only pose the question’ correctly and clearly, and have faith one will ask the question in the right way.” (Society). He began to write it in his rooms on the top floor of the eleventh entry of graduate college and finished it the following year while teaching at Lawrenceville (Books). The time period of all these events also contribute to Wilder’s way of writing.