Human Life, between Motive and Needs (An Analysis on Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love)

Human Life, between Motive and Needs

(An Analysis on Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love)


By Nor Laili Fatmawati Fs



People live with certain needs in their life. It is not only related to the physical needs such as drinks and foods that will support them to be survived, but also related to the psychological needs that commonly cannot be seen because related to the feeling, emotion, satisfaction and other abstract things. Both of these physical and psychological needs of human are very principle and should be fulfilled in order to make a complete and meaningful life.

In order to fulfill what they need in their life, people have done some efforts. Sometimes they should fight, sacrifice, suffer and fail for getting their needs, some people even do some cruel actions such as raping, stealing and other criminal actions. But, unfortunately, some people often misunderstand their own needs. They feel that they need something, but sometimes they do not know what actually they need. They were failed to interpret their desire and it causes them getting neither satisfaction nor peace after getting what they have assumed before as their life needs. It can be clearly seen in the case of people who have done very hard works, even good or bad, to get both wealthy and glory as much as possible, but when they have got both of them, they still feel that it is not enough and even never enough. These people actually have been failed in understanding the main needs of theirs. They thought that their needs only related to the material or physical things, they have totally forgotten that there are something to do with their psychological needs. And one of the psychological needs that mostly was forgotten by people is the spiritual need, the fundamental need of people that will make their life balance.

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is a novel that tells fluency about the struggle of Liz, the main character of this novel, in fulfilling her spiritual need. Of course, it will be agreeable if most of the readers of this novel said that this novel is “a spiritual adventure” or “spiritual memoir” of Liz. Liz at the beginning of the story is described as a career woman who has a happy marriage. But in the thirty years old of her age, she feels a very hard anxiety about her life. As a wife, she does not want to be a mother like any other housewives. She thinks that being mother will make her difficult to actualize her self. This idea has broken her household. She gets divorce and the very hard life has been started as the consequence of her decision. Liz then goes for long traveling to the three cities,Italy,India andIndonesia. She hopes this traveling will discover her self and make her be able to get something that she has been looking for since very long-long time ago in her life. And finally, this character indeed has got it inBali,Indonesia.

What is actually happened to Liz at that time? What thing that has supported her to leave her happy life and begins the new ones in the three countries far from her family and her country? What things are actually need by Liz in her life? These questions are the main focus that will be explored in this paper. It will explain about the needs of human being, how the people respond their needs, and weather or not the people in their life feel the satisfaction and peace when they have fulfilled their needs, and when it will be happened.

Analysis – From Self Actualization, Spirituality and Balance

Eat Pray Love has put Liz, the main character of the novel, as an idealistic woman who always strives for self actualization in her life. For Liz, self actualization is an importunate need and more important than the other needs. We can see it in the way how Liz has sacrificed her need to love and to be loved as a wife and as a mother only for having freedom for running her career. Her choice was influenced her view about the process of being a wife and having baby as quoted in the following paragraph:

But I didn’t—as I was appalled to be finding out—want any of these things. Instead, as my twenties had come to a close, that deadline of THIRTY had loomed over me like a death sentence, and I discovered that I did not want to be pregnant. I kept waiting to want to have a baby, but it didn’t happen. And I know what it feels like to want something, believe me. I well know what desire feels like. But it wasn’t there. Moreover, I couldn’t stop thinking about what my sister had said to me once, as she was breastfeeding her firstborn: “Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it’s what you want before you commit.” (p. 17).

What Liz felt about her self in the quotation above is the main reason of getting divorce. But this is not the only, beside it, Liz decides to get divorce because they has felt that she needs something, something that cannot be found from her life at that time. Although she has acquired all of her prime needs as human such as food, drinks, safety, etc from her marriage, but there are something missing. One day, she has investigated her self by questioning weather or not she wanted her nice house, did she love it, and so why was she haunting its halls every night now, howling like Medea, weather or not she proud of all she and her husband have accumulated—the prestigious home in the Hudson Valley, the apartment in Manhattan, the eight phone lines, the friends and the picnics and the parties, the weekends spent roaming the aisles of some box-shaped superstore of our choice and so on. But at that time, she has found that everything she has mentioned are not the thing she needs now. She only want to express her need of self actualization which than has strived her for leaving her previous life and then started her traveling firstly toItaly.

In Italy, Liz tries to kill her sadness resulted by her divorce by enjoying some kinds of entertainments, foods and making relations. She enjoys learning the beauty of Italian language and the happiness of bel far niente (the happiness of enjoying time without doing anything). But, Liz finally aware that everything she got from Italy still make her feels of being incomplete. There is a need that always asks her to fulfill it. And Liz concludes that the happiness ofItaly is not something that she is looking for, and there is the bigger need she really requires at that time.

From Liz’s life, we know about how a people express the need of self-actualization. This need has made people feel uncomfortable to stand statically with their condition. People always need something, the better, the more, again and again. Self-actualization usually comes to the people when they have completed their basic needs related to the physical needs and have lived in the good condition. Sometimes it becomes the result of boredom or the expression of people needs toward freedom and the dynamic condition.

Then, after enjoying the glamour life ofItaly, Liz goes toIndia. A city that can be said as an antonym ofItalyshe has visited before. She thinks that if the luxury ofItalycannot make her able to complete the unknown thing that she needs, maybe the modesty ofIndiacan do it. This character than lives in an ashram, enjoys the art of Indian devotions, and tries very hard to find what she needs from yoga.

From what has been experienced by Liz in India, she finally realizes that the need of self-actualization, that always demands her, actually should not always be fulfilled by something related to the materials or physic. There are some needs related to the spirituality that only can be fulfilled by the sincerity of devotion. This need in Islamic perspective is called by fitrah, or the nature of human being. This fitra has been brought by all people from the time they were born in this world. Fitra cannot be left or changed, however people have done very hard efforts for it. One part of fitra is the spiritual fitra (fitrah ilahiyah), or the need of God. Every people will face a chance when they feel longing to the present of a God in their hearth, whatever the names of God they believe. All people need to the power that is higher of their power. They also need to have something to be depended on. And Liz, in this novel, actually has realized it from the night on the bathroom floor when she spoke to God directly for the first time. Here is the beginning of Liz’s spiritual adventure.

This part of my story is not a happy one, I know. But I share it here because something was about to occur on that bathroom floor that would change forever the progression of my life—almost like one of those crazy astronomical super-events when a planet flips over in outer space for no reason whatsoever, and its molten core shifts, relocating its poles and altering its shape radically, such that the whole mass of the planet suddenly becomes oblong instead of spherical. Something like that.

What happened was that I started to pray.

You know—like, toGod. (p. 19).

The accident in that night on the bathroom floor actually is the beginning of Liz’s spiritual awareness. But, she did not do anything to response her conscience except only prays to God for asking Him about what she must do at that time. She has approved that she was forgetting her God for certain times, but she still did not try to repair her condition well until she finally arrives inIndiaand lives with the sincere devotion of ashram community.

After gradually Liz success to get her spiritual need from the Ashram life, Liz finally feels that her life then becomes better. Moreover when she finally arrived in kundalini shakti, the highest level of her spiritual activities. She can enjoy the peace of willingness in giving everything in her life under the almighty power of God. But it is not meant that she has fulfilled everything she needs in her life. She still needs something that she can not get it in Ashram, and it caused her come to the small town in Indonesia called “The Island of the Gods”, Bali.

As explained before, inItaly, Liz has enjoyed her self by the happy life of that country, and inIndia, she has enjoyed the peace of devotion. InBali, Liz tries to look for something that will make her feeling complete. She begins to make the same portion between the physical happiness and the psychological peace. She puts her self between the worldliness and spirituality. She does not only use her time by doing meditation by yoga like she has done mostly inIndia, but also use it for spree, exulting, enjoying the beautiful panorama, making relationship with her new friends like she has done before inItaly, and also making love.

I’ve been here only a few weeks and I feel a rather mission-accomplished sensation already. The task inIndonesiawas to search for balance, but I don’t feel like I’m searching for anything anymore because the balance has somehow naturally come into place. It’s not that I’m becoming Balinese (no more than I ever became Italian or Indian) but only this—I can feel my own peace, and I love the swing of my days between easeful devotional practices and the pleasures of beautiful landscape, dear friends and good food. (p. 182).

In Bali, Liz’s activities are divided into natural thirds, first, spending her mornings with Wayan at her shop, laughing and eating, second, spending afternoons with Ketut the medicine man, talking and drinking coffee, third, spending evenings in her lovely garden, either hanging out by herself and reading a book, or sometimes talking with Yudhi, who comes over to play his guitar. Every morning, Liz meditates while the sun comes up over the rice fields, and before bedtime she speaks to her four spirit brothers and asks them to keep her while she sleeps. These activities are very meaningful for Liz. She feels the balance has come by its own self to her life without she looked for it as before. She finally feels that everything she needs has been fulfilled. She considers that the balance of worldliness and spirituality is her main need that she is looking for it since very long time ago.

Eat Pray Love then becomes an evidence for the struggle of people in fulfilling their physical and psychological needs. This effort is one reflection of people’s self actualization system that strive the people to not being satisfied with something they has got before. People’s needs will always become more and more until they come to the highest need of the life, it is the balance of the worldliness and the spirituality.


From this novel, we can formulate that human’s life is consist of some multilevel needs, from the lowest up to the highest. The lower needs included some physical or material needs that related to foods, drinks, sex, etc, while the higher needs included the psychological needs such as the need of happiness, peace, satisfaction, etc. Most people have known how to fulfill the lower needs, but many people have no idea about the way how to fulfill the higher. Some of them assume that by acquiring all of the physical needs they will automatically acquire their psychological needs. They do not know that spirituality is the key to make them enjoy both of them wherever they are and however their condition was.

The awareness of spirituality appears in various ways. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, Liz’s spiritual awareness is appeared when Liz has totally given up and need someone or something that can help her to know what she should do in solving her problem. This spiritual awareness then guides Liz to come toItaly for the first time. But unfortunately, she cannot find her spiritual need there because the spirituality will be difficult to find when people still coddling their selves with the worldly life. The happiness which is resulted by the worldly life will be very different from the happiness of spiritual satisfaction, and Liz knows that she still does not feel the second happiness.

While in Ashram, Liz begins the real struggle in finding her spiritual needs. She tries hard to master some kinds of Yoga that will be used by her as the mediator to get it. The climax of Liz’s adventure in fulfilling her spiritual need is when finally she arrives in kundalini shakti (the feeling of the unity between human and the God). From the time Liz feels it, she finally feels that something has fulfilled an empty room in her soul. The spirituality has come to her and makes her life better than before.

InBali, Liz has complete all of things she needs in her life. It is because in that small town, she can get the balance between the worldly and the spirituality. This balance is the result of her efforts in making the equal portion between her daily activities as the common people who of course needs some entertainments, friends, beauties, etc, and her ritual of yoga as her spiritual activities. The balance has made Liz feels that she has found her self. She can discover her life by having this balance because the balance is the highest need of human being that every people have done several efforts for finding it by their own ways. As the spirituality is the climax of human’s need, the balance is the most ideal turning point of human life.

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