In class there was much discussion as to whether Elizabeth Gilbert is selfish for leaving her husband. I was among those who said she is not selfish due to what I expected Gilbert’s outcomes of her action to be; for instance a better life full of love for herself, another person, and/or another country. Each person knows what is best for his or herself and for Gilbert it was to leave what one could call the “typical process” of finding a boyfriend, finding a house and steady income, getting married, and then what comes next? Having a baby. However, who is to say we all have to follow such a structured path? As Gilbert is thinking about her unhappiness, she writes, “Why did I feel so overwhelmed with duty, tired of being the primary breadwinner and the housekeeper and the social coordinator and the dog-walker and the wife and the soon-to-be-mother, and – somewhere in my stolen moments – a writer. . .? I don’t want to be married anymore” (11). Society constantly puts pressure on us to be dutiful, to do what is expected of us as a student, a parent, a friend, etc. When I read this quote and about Gilbert’s departure to find herself within different homelands, I began to think of “the boy” from Sons for the Return Home. The boy had a duty to his family, but was always looking for more. This also relates to Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabela of Spain Consummate their Relationship in which Columbus and Isbela are continuously looking to the unknown, wanting more. However, this straying away from duty and venturing to the unknown may in fact teach us a lot about ourselves.
The boy from Sons for the return home needed to break away from the expectations trusted upon him from his family, especially his mother. Once on the plane, he realizes that a new life is waiting for him. Gilbert needed to feel free from the pressures to become a mother when she was not ready. At times leaving a current situation is the best possible solution. Gilbert not only benefited from her life-changing journey (which I seriously want to embark on), but in the long run she is benefiting her husband. I believe it takes great courage to break away from what is expected of us, for there is much pressure on us as Americans to find the best job in order to make the most money. Gilbert writes towards the conclusion of the novel, “I think about the woman I have become lately, about the life that I am now living, and about how much I always wanted to be this person and live this life, liberated from the farce of pretending to be anyone other than myself” (329). With the weight of the world on your shoulders, you may feel as though you are losing yourself. However, with Elizabeth Gilbert in mind, although one does not need to leave the country, one should recognize the need for a break from duty/expectations, and find love within oneself, others, and/or foreign lands.