The Five of Maslow’s Human Needs Felt by Liz in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love

The Five of Maslow’s Human Needs Felt by Liz in

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love

By Nor Laili Fatmawati Fs



It is known that literature is not only some words composition that functions to entertain the readers, moreover, literature is the integral part of culture. Studying a novel as one of literary genres is studying about the universe. There are some realities of life, human thoughts and ideas we found in the novel and all of those phenomena show us that literature is not born from inanition, but it is the reflection of the real life that is really happened or maybe happened. This is why the study of literature that relates to the real world becomes interesting for many people, such as sociological study, psychological study, biographical study and also historical study on the works of literature.

Psychological study as one kind of the literary study which focused on the extrinsic and intrinsic elements of the work of literature is one model that is often used by people. It based on the assumption that work of literature is one product of human’s psychological process. There is closed relation between psychology and literature because both of these two have the same object, it is human being. There are many concepts of the psychology applied in the literary studies because almost all of authors characterize their novel’s characters properly with the characteristics of the people in the real world.

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is a great novel which captures the struggle of people in fulfilling their life’s needs. These needs which are looked for by Liz, the main character of this novel are actually the implementation of human’s need theory by Abraham Maslow, the pioneer of Humanistic psychological theory. In his famous theory about the hierarchy of human’s needs, he states that all people have five kinds of needs described in his pyramid of human’s needs:

In his pyramid, Maslow has explained that human’s needs are multilevel or high rose. It begins from the lowest needs related to physical needs, goes to the needs of safety, needs of love or belonging, needs of self esteem and then comes to the highest need, it is the need of self- actualization.



By applying Maslow’s pyramid of human needs, we will notice how the main character in the novel represents those needs. The following explanations describe how Liz faces her life and survives it by doing struggle to fulfill her needs as a human being.

1. Physical Needs

To survive their life, people should fulfill firstly their physical needs, such as food, drink, sex, sleeping and so on that are related to the human physic. If this kind of need cannot be fulfilled, so the people cannot feel the higher need, it is the need of safety. In the real life, we can see that people who cannot fulfill these physical needs would not think properly to get the need of safety.

In Eat Pray Love, Liz is a success woman who has everything to support her physical needs. She lives in prosperous life and good career. We can see how her life was in the following quotation:

I was not inRomebut in the upstairs bathroom of the big house in the suburbs ofNew Yorkwhich I’d recently purchased with my husband. It was a cold November, around three o’clock in the morning. My husband was sleeping in our bed (p. 17).

Wasn’t I proud of all we’d 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, buying ever more appliances on credit? (p. 18).

So, Liz is a woman who has completely acquired the physical needs she required. She lives in prosperous condition with of course enough food, drink, sex, sleeping and so on because she has all of things that enable her to have it. She has a big house that was bought by her with her own money and her husband’s money. Both of the have good career and they have got lot of money from it to fulfill their physical needs.

2. Safety Needs

As the pyramid shows, people needs to safety. This need is also required to survive their life. Although the people have already completed all of their physical needs, they still feel that they really need safety to support them. This safety includes the real meaning of safety, for example the safety from robber, crime etc., and also the safety of finance, relation, etc. If the people have gotten this kind of need, they will begin to feel the higher need.

In the novel Eat Pray Love, Liz is told as woman who has this kind of need. She lives in the safe house around her colleagues and friends, and also safe finance condition because she is an independent woman who lives not only from her husband’s money but also from her own money.

The quotation written before also shows that Liz before her divorce was living with perfect safety she need. Not only her husband and her own self who can make Liz safe, but also David, the man who has been Liz’s hero after her divorce.

The fact is, I had become addicted to David (in my defense, he had fostered this, being something of a “man-fatale”) (p. 24).

So, before and after she leaved her husband, actually Liz has met two mans who has helped her to fulfill her need of safety. The two mans are her husband, and David. This condition supports her to feel the higher desire to complete the higher need of her life.

3. Love or Belonging Needs

If the previous two kinds of needs are related with individual, this third need is the kind of need that is related to other people. So that, this need is a part of social need of human being. This need is also related to the people’s emotion because love or belonging is something that only can be felt. However the people are, they really need to love or belonging.

Before getting divorce, the character of Liz is a very lucky people because she lives among people who love to her and she also loves them very much, moreover her husband who always stays beside her with all of his love.  We can see how was her need of love has been being fulfilled before she got divorce from her husband. After getting divorce, it also happens when Liz has special relationship with David who loves her and who is loved by her very much.

But, oh, we had such a great time together during those early months when he was still my romantic hero and I was still his living dream. It was excitement and compatibility like I’d never imagined. We invented our own language. We went on day trips and road trips. We hiked to the top of things, swam to the bottom of other things, planned the journeys across the world we would take together. We had more fun waiting in line together at the Department of Motor Vehicles than most couples have on their honey-moons. We gave each other the same nickname, so there would be no separation between us. We made goals, vows, promises and dinner together. He read books to me, and he did my laundry. (The first time that happened, I called Susan to report the marvel in astonishment, like I’d just seen a camel using a pay phone. I said, “A man just did my laundry! And he even hand-washed my delicates!” And she repeated: “Oh my God, baby, you are in so much trouble.”) (p. 23).

It clearly shows us that David is the man who has perfectly able to give Liz very beautiful love. For Liz, this man is her hero who has helped her in fulfilling the need of love/ longing she felt.

4. Self Esteem Needs

After having love or belonging, people will comes to the higher need, it is the need to be honored, need to be important people and need to be useful for others called by self-esteem needs. People will consider that they require this need when they have already fulfilled the physical need, got the safety and also love. From people who still focus their efforts to fulfill the previous three needs, this forth need will be felt not too important.

The need of self-esteem of course is felt by Liz. As a person who has enough food, drink, money, sex, safety and also love, she feels that self-esteem is important for her self. She needs to be honored by people, she needs to be an important people among her community, and she need to be acknowledged by other people.

I had actively participated in every moment of the creation of this life—so why did I feel like none of it resembled me? 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 . . .? (p. 18).

By maintaining her career, keeping good relationship with other people and joining some activities that hopefully help her to be an honorable woman and known by other people, it means that Liz has done one effort to find her need of self-esteem. But this need is not the last thing she need in the life, as a human, she still need something that she has not find it yet.


5. Self-actualization Needs

According Maslows’ Humanistic theory, this need of self-actualization is the highest need of human being. Generally this need appears when people have fulfill all of the lower needs explained in the pyramid. People who come to this need will feel that she has big ambition to be the best people among others.

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, we see that Liz before getting divorce has lived in stable position. She has everything that can make her happy. But finally she realizes that there is inanition in her hearth. She needs something that can be required by her money, her honorary, or the love she got from her husband. Everything she has gotten then becomes meaningless. She has very big desire to get her need that actually at that time is unknown for her. The big desire than strives her for doing something, even letting everything she had for getting her need.

Liz’s questions in the previous quotation have told what finally has been done by Liz for her need. In her questions she has explained that she has do many things to express her self-esteem needs. But, in the same time, she always feels that she still need something more. She considers that being free woman is her highest desire. She has a dream to be a successful woman career who is free to do everything without being restricted by any role of household as a wife or mother. This need in Maslows’ theory is called self-actualization need. For it, Liz then decided to leave everything she had and begins looking for everything that can support her self-actualization need.



Liz, the main character in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love is the representation of the how people undergo the process of need evolution as Abraham Maslow’s theory tells. This novel also describes how people are always motivated to get the higher need after fulfilling others. So, by using the psychological approach especially the humanistic theory of Abraham Maslow, it is known that work of literature is not only has entertaining values. Works of literature are the miniature of human life that can be learnt by all people who read them.              




Corr, P. J., & Matthews, G. (Eds.). (2009). The CambridgeHandbook of Personality Psychology.New York:CambridgeUniversity Press.


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