Thornton Wilder's 1927 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey follows a Franciscan monk who tries to discover meaning in the tragedy of a bridge collapse. Wilder explained that his inspiration for the novel came out of a series of theological arguments with his parents. With this in mind, Wilder created a fascinating story that posed a multitude of questions concerning predestination.
In The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Brother Juniper sets out to prove one of two distinct worldviews: "either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan." But throughout the novel, Wilder suggests a third worldview: perhaps it's all beyond the scope of human understanding. In order to better inform this debate and create a wide range of in-class discussions, it would be interesting to study The Bridge of San Luis Rey alongside Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, Albert Camus's The Plague, John Irving's A Prayer For Owen Meany, and J.W. Ironmonger's Coincidence.
Compare the ways in which The Bridge of San Luis Rey and Slaughterhouse-Five approach the discussion of predestination? Does Brother Juniper's quest to find empirical proof of God's plan in the bridge collapse compare to Father Paneloux's desires to find meaning in The Plague? How does Owen Meany's tragic journey compare to Brother Juniper's? Is Owen destined to be an instrument of God, or is it his belief that he is that leads him to act accordingly? Likewise, in what ways does the monk's journey mimic that of Azalea's quest to understand the tragedies in her own life in Coincidence?