The Bridge of San Luis Rey

by

Thornton Wilder

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Camila Perichole / Micaela Villegas Character Analysis

Camila Perichole is a talented but volatile Limean actress, usually known as “the Perichole.” A lowly orphan, the Perichole spends her childhood singing in cafes under a series of abusive employers, until Uncle Pio, perceiving her genuine talent, takes her in and teaches her to become a true performer. Uncle Pio and the Perichole work together for decades; however, while Uncle Pio is driven by his passion for theater and doesn’t care about worldly success, after the Perichole becomes the Viceroy’s mistress and has several children with him she stops acting in order to become a more “respectable” woman. Moreover, she disowns Uncle Pio, who reminds her of her seedy origins. The Perichole’s attempts to establish herself among the Limean elite are foiled when she contracts smallpox and loses the beauty which enabled her to attract powerful men. At this point, it’s only Uncle Pio who stands by her, managing her house and taking care of her children while she’s incapacitated by anguish over her lost looks. After her oldest son, Jaime, dies in a bridge collapse, her grief forces her to stop thinking about herself. Guided by the Abbess’s wise counsel, by the end of the novel the Perichole seems poised to begin a life of devotion to others, rather than to herself.

Camila Perichole / Micaela Villegas Quotes in The Bridge of San Luis Rey

The The Bridge of San Luis Rey quotes below are all either spoken by Camila Perichole / Micaela Villegas or refer to Camila Perichole / Micaela Villegas. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Acts of God and Individual Will Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Collins edition of The Bridge of San Luis Rey published in 1927.
Part 3: Esteban Quotes

Pleasure was no longer as simple as eating; it was being complicated by love. Now was beginning that crazy loss of one’s self, that neglect of everything but one’s dramatic thoughts about the beloved, that feverish inner life all turning upon the Perichole and which would so have astonished and disgusted her had she been permitted to divine it.

Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

It was merely that in the heart of one of them there was left room for an elaborate imaginative attachment and in the heart of the other there was not. Manuel could not quite understand this […] but he did understand that Esteban was suffering […] and at once, in one unhesitating stroke of the will, he removed the Perichole from his heart.

Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4: Uncle Pio Quotes

Her whole nature became gentle and mysterious and oddly wise; and it all turned to him. She could find no fault in him and she was sturdily loyal. They loved one another deeply but without passion. He respected the slight nervous shadow that crossed her face when he came too near her. But there arose out of this denial itself the perfume of a tenderness, that ghost of passion which, in the most unexpected relationship, can make even a whole lifetime devoted to irksome duty pass like a gracious dream.

Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

“How absurd you are,” she said smiling. “You said that as boys say it. You don’t seem to learn as you grow older, Uncle Pio. There is no such thing as that kind of love and that kind of island. It’s in the theater you find such things.”

Related Characters: Camila Perichole / Micaela Villegas (speaker), Uncle Pio
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:

This assumption that she need look for no more devotion now that her beauty had passed proceeded from the fact that she had never realized any love save love as passion. Such love, though it expends itself in generosity and thoughtfulness, though it give birth to visions and to great poetry, remains among the sharpest expressions of self-interest. Not until it has passed through a long servitude, through its own self-hatred, through mockery, through great doubts, can it take its place among the loyalties.

Related Characters: Camila Perichole / Micaela Villegas (speaker)
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 5: Perhaps an Intention Quotes

“All, all of us have failed. One wishes to be punished. One is willing to assume all kinds of penance, but do you know, my daughter, that in love—I scarcely dare say it—but in love our very mistakes don’t seem to be able to last long?”

Related Symbols: Churches and Abbeys
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Bridge of San Luis Rey LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Bridge of San Luis Rey PDF

Camila Perichole / Micaela Villegas Character Timeline in The Bridge of San Luis Rey

The timeline below shows where the character Camila Perichole / Micaela Villegas appears in The Bridge of San Luis Rey. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2: The Marquesa de Montemayor
Acts of God and Individual Will Theme Icon
...that she and her maid, Pepita, are planning on going to the theater to see Perichole perform. Everyone in Lima is obsessed with this famous actress, although Doña María says she’s... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
...However, in her absent-mindedness she doesn’t pay much attention to the play. Between the acts, Camila Perichole customarily comes onstage to sing humorous songs. Seeing the Marquesa in the audience, she... (full context)
Dogma vs. Altruism Theme Icon
...learns that “one of his aristocrats had been openly baited in the theater,” he forces Camila Perichole to apologize to her personally. He doesn’t care much about Doña María, but he... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
Doña María is not only surprised by Camila Perichole’s visit, she’s also drunk. At first, Doña María drank a local liquor, chicha, just... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
Seeing her victim up close, Camila Perichole is surprised by her dignity. She softly says that she hopes Doña María didn’t... (full context)
Part 3: Esteban
Art and Memory Theme Icon
...and tawdry in comparison to their unspoken bond. Esteban goes home early, but Manuel stays—seeing Camila Perichole acting the lead role, he instantly falls in love with her. Both brothers have... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
...Esteban. He is beginning to lose his sense of self in his passion for the Perichole. (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
One night, a message boy tells Manuel that the Perichole wants to see him immediately. Manuel goes straight to the theater, where the actress asks... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
For the next two months, Manuel writes letters for the Perichole without ever telling Esteban what he’s doing. One night, to his astonishment, the Perichole arrives... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
After the Perichole leaves, Manuel sits with his head in his hands, whispering about how much he worships... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Dogma vs. Altruism Theme Icon
...the candle, Manuel feigns casual boredom and says that he’s tired of writing for the Perichole and doesn’t want to see her again. Esteban sees through the ruse and announces his... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
...kind to his brother as he normally is. Esteban even offers to send for the Perichole to visit him, but he says wholeheartedly that he doesn’t want to see her. When... (full context)
Part 4: Uncle Pio
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Uncle Pio is the Perichole’s “singing-master, her coiffeur, her masseur, her reader, her errand-boy, her banker”—and, some people say, her... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
...popular art is that of the theater, which captures the imagination of the whole city. Camila Perichole has built a reputation as the city’s most talented actress. Most people assume that... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
One day, Uncle Pio comes across Camila Perichole—who, at the time, was a twelve-year-old girl named Micaela Villegas, working as a café... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Camila grows up into a beautiful woman, but remains deeply loyal to her first protector—“they loved... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
Together, Uncle Pio and Camila Perichole travel across South America, seeking new audiences for her songs. As Camila grows older,... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
After each performance, Camila and Uncle Pio talk over the entire play, analyzing what she’s done well and what... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
As time goes on, Camila becomes less obsessed with artistic perfection than Uncle Pio. In part, this is due to... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
Uncle Pio is always happy when a new actress arrives in the city, because Camila always performs best when she has to compete. She can always outshine another actor “without... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
Camila is very beautiful, except when she rests—then her face seems long and thin, and she... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
Camila becomes even more distracted from her work in the theater when she attracts the attention... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Uncle Pio doesn’t like Camila’s invitations to the palace, although he’s intrigued that her lessons from Don Andrés add a... (full context)
Dogma vs. Altruism Theme Icon
After some time, Don Andrés asks if Camila would mind sharing their dinners with other guests. He offers to introduce her to the... (full context)
Acts of God and Individual Will Theme Icon
...as well as Captain Alvarado. All the men gather in the early evening, when the Perichole is still performing; she arrives tired and fantastically dressed after the play, and they treat... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
However, Uncle Pio never stops worrying about Camila. In his mind, the world is divided into “those who had loved and those who... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
Meanwhile, the Perichole becomes increasingly bored with acting; instead, she’s filled with the desire to become a lady.... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
...de Cluxambuqua is a fashionable neighborhood where Don Andrés has built an imitation-French palace. The Perichole builds her own villa and retires outside the city for her health, which she claims... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Camila quits acting when she is thirty and spends the next five years obtaining her place... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
One day, Uncle Pio arrives at Camila’s villa and coaxes her into speaking with him in her French gardens. He has been... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Uncle Pio awaits Camila in the French gardens, which look out onto the Andes. The sun is setting and... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Art and Memory Theme Icon
Uncle Pio begs Camila to hear him out, but she instantly begins to rail at him that she won’t... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Eventually, Camila relents and begs Uncle Pio to forgive her. She says that Jaime has been ill... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
Uncle Pio says that Camila is “a very great artist” and that she could even succeed in Madrid. He tries... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Art and Memory Theme Icon
Humbly, Uncle Pio says that having known Camila is “enough for my whole life,” and that he is “always ready” to help her... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
Soon after this, the news spreads throughout Lima that Camila Perichole has contracted the smallpox. Although her illness is part of a great epidemic, people... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
As soon as she is well enough to move, Camila travels from her home in Lima to her villa in the mountains. She returns all... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
As Camila’s few remaining friends continue to try to see her, she becomes angrier and more insulting... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
...into her household, managing her affairs and lending her money. However, whenever he comes into Camila’s presence, she becomes convinced that he pities her and comforts herself by yelling at him.... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
One day, Uncle Pio opens Camila’s door to find her face covered in a “paste of chalk and cream.” She had... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
One morning, Uncle Pio wakes up at dawn and steals onto Camila’s estate. Lying beneath her window, he begins to weep in imitation of a young girl.... (full context)
Dogma vs. Altruism Theme Icon
Uncle Pio entreats Camila to let him take Jaime back to Lima, where he can be the boy’s teacher.... (full context)
Dogma vs. Altruism Theme Icon
Trying to force Camila into agreement, Uncle Pio demands that she pay back the money he’s lent her (although... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Camila says Uncle Pio is a cruel man to continually force gratitude on her. For a... (full context)
Part 5: Perhaps an Intention
Acts of God and Individual Will Theme Icon
...him in detail about Pepita, but not about her hopes for the young girl. The Perichole contradicts the “unsavory testimonies” that others give about Uncle Pio. (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...church, knowing that everyone is watching as he mourns his only son; he wonders if Camila is in attendance. Captain Alvarado stands in the square and thinks about “how false, how... (full context)
Dogma vs. Altruism Theme Icon
Camila Perichole has finally left her villa to attend the service. She feels that God has... (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
One day, Camila learns that the Abbess, like her, has lost two loved ones in the bridge collapse.... (full context)
Dogma vs. Altruism Theme Icon
The Abbess takes Camila into the convent’s garden, speaking soothingly of her previous acting career. Camila protests, saying that... (full context)
Dogma vs. Altruism Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...and speak to the sick people before they go to sleep. One of the Abbess’s helpers appears to consult with her about some problem, and the Abbess explains that this woman... (full context)
Acts of God and Individual Will Theme Icon
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...that almost no one else on earth even remembers Esteban and Pepita. After she and Camila and Doña Clara die, no one will remember those who died on the bridge. However,... (full context)