In the book The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Brother Juniper witnesses the collapse of the San Luis Rey Bridge and the deaths of the five people who were on the bridge when it fell. This disturbs Brother Juniper greatly. He wonders if God intended this, or if it was merely a coincidence. In order to find out if it is coincidence or not, he gains as much information as possible on the five people who fell to their deaths on the bridge. He feels that if he can make a connection between all these people then he can figure out why God made this happen to them out of everyone in the world.
The five people on the bridge had several parallels in their lives. The two children, Don Jaime and Pepita, were both sent away by people who supposedly loved them. Camila sent her son Don Jaime away because she didn’t have the money to pay her ex-friend Uncle Pio. So in exchange for the money, Uncle Pio would take Don Jaime to Lima and teach him the ways of society. The Abbess sent Pepita away to live with Dona Maria, in hopes that Dona Maria would make a contribution to the orphanage where Pepita came from. The Abbess knew that Pepita was special and could one day run the orphanage, yet she sent her away because she wanted the money.
The three adults, Dona Maria, Esteban, and Uncle Pio have things in common, also. They all lost someone they loved, but not always in death. Dona Maria lost her daughter Dona Clara when she married and moved to Spain. Dona Clara resented her mother and was very rude to her. Esteban lost his twin brother Manuel, with whom he was extremely close, to disease and infection. Uncle Pio lost Camila when she moved up and society and she refused to associate with him anymore. All three were also ostracized from society. These adults had just begun to get over their losses and be happy when they died.
If it was God’s intention to have these people die, then the only reasons he would have would be loss of a loved one, being sent away from the people they loved, or finally being happy. It seemed as if once these unfortunate people became happy their lives were suddenly cut short. Maybe it is God’s intention for everyone to find inner peace on earth. Once they find that inner peace maybe they are summoned to Heaven.1 “So he put everything down on the notion that if he reread the book twenty times, the countless facts would suddenly start to move, to assemble and to betray their secret.”
This means that Father Juniper never figured out if this tragedy was God’s will or not. One would think that he did not succeed in his effort to puzzle out if this was an intention or a coincidence. No one can fully understand God. As (page 7) says, “Some will 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.” One might believe that this means we will never know if everything happens because of an intention or purely coincidence. It is entirely up to each individual. Everyone has their own opinions and this question can only be answered when their time comes.