Living and dying by accident or plan

In The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927), Brother Juniper, “the little red-haired Franciscan from Northern Italy,” witnesses five people die when a bridge collapses in Peru.  The rest of the novel reads like a theological detective story, in which Brother Juniper attempts to prove “why God had settled upon that person and upon that day for His demonstration of wisdom.” One of the novel’s major themes is laid out in these memorable passages below from “Part One: Perhaps an Accident”:

Either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan.

* * *

Yet for all his diligence Brother Juniper never knew the central passion of Doña María’s life; nor of Uncle Pio’s, not even of Esteban’s. And I, who claim to know so much more, isn’t it possible that even I have missed the very spring within the spring?

Some say that we shall never know and that to the gods we are like the flies that the boys kill on a summer day, and some say, on the contrary, that the very sparrows do not lose a feather that has not been brushed away by the finger of God.


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