The Bridge of San Luis Rey

by

Thornton Wilder

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Esteban Character Analysis

Esteban is a young man who grows up in the Abbess’s orphanage alongside his identical twin, Manuel. Reserved and industrious, Esteban works as a scribe and errand boy, but he forms few friendships and no romantic attachments due to his exclusive attachment to Manuel. The brothers are defined by their extremely close relationship; they live together and have even devised their own language in which to communicate. Esteban is distraught when Manuel’s passion for Camila Perichole threatens to destroy their relationship, and relieved when Manuel renounces this passion for the sake of his brother. However, his relief proves short-lived when Manuel suddenly contracts an infection and dies. Manuel’s death plunges Esteban into an existential crisis, as he’s never contemplated the idea of life without his brother. It’s only Captain Alvarado’s compassionate intervention that convinces him not to commit suicide; fortified by the older man’s guidance, Esteban prepares to begin a new stage of his life as a member of the captain’s exploring crew; however, his expectations are dashed when he dies in the bridge collapse.

Esteban Quotes in The Bridge of San Luis Rey

The The Bridge of San Luis Rey quotes below are all either spoken by Esteban or refer to Esteban. 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

[…] for just as resignation was a word insufficient to describe the spiritual change that came over the Marquesa de Montemayor on that night in the inn in Cluxambuqua, so love is inadequate to describe the tacit almost ashamed oneness of these brothers […] there existed a need of one another so terrible that it produced miracles as naturally as the charged air of a sultry day produces lightning.

Related Characters: Esteban, Manuel
Page Number: 43
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:

He was the awkwardest speaker in the world apart from the lore of the sea, but there are times when it requires a high courage to speak the banal. He could not be sure the figure on the floor was listening, but he said, “We do what we can. We push on, Esteban, as best we can.”

Related Characters: Captain Alvarado (speaker), Esteban
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Bridge of San Luis Rey LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Bridge of San Luis Rey PDF

Esteban Character Timeline in The Bridge of San Luis Rey

The timeline below shows where the character Esteban appears in The Bridge of San Luis Rey. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 3: Esteban
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
...door of the Abbess’s convent. The nuns take them in and name them Manuel and Esteban. Although their parents are never discovered, Limean gossips view their graceful bearing as evidence of... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Although she’s generally suspicious of men, the Abbess grows fond of Manuel and Esteban, treating them to cakes and telling them biblical stories. When they are too old to... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Art and Memory Theme Icon
Because they lack a family and were brought up exclusively by women, Manuel and Esteban are quite reserved. Although they are extremely close, they dislike the “continual comment and joking”... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
One night, Manuel and Esteban see a play at the invitation of a theater manager they sometimes work for. The... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
...“his will and imagination had been thus overwhelmed” by a feeling he doesn’t share with Esteban. He is beginning to lose his sense of self in his passion for the Perichole. (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
For Esteban, however, life with Manuel is enough to keep him content forever. He doesn’t have “room... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
...friend and that he will never repeat the contents of the letter, not even to Esteban. The Perichole dictates one letter to the Viceroy, which is polite and earnest, asking why... (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 at their room in... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
...Manuel sits with his head in his hands, whispering about how much he worships her. Esteban gets up from bed and tells his brother that he should go and follow the... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Dogma vs. Altruism Theme Icon
...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 intention to go for a walk; half angrily,... (full context)
Acts of God and Individual Will Theme Icon
...of the brothers have ever been sick before, Manuel’s knee swells up and becomes infected. Esteban fetches a barber surgeon, who prescribes many ointments and instructs Esteban to lay cold cloths... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
...to hell and saying that he came “between me and what was mine by right.” Esteban isn’t sure whether his brother means what he says, but he continues to care for... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
...returns to his senses and is as kind to his brother as he normally is. Esteban even offers to send for the Perichole to visit him, but he says wholeheartedly that... (full context)
Acts of God and Individual Will Theme Icon
...night of Manuel’s illness, their neighbors begin to protest at his shouting and coarse language. Esteban tries to calm his brother, but not being able to scream makes Manuel even more... (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Esteban leaves the building and refuses to come back. He goes on long walks and stares... (full context)
Acts of God and Individual Will Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
From that point, Esteban wanders through and around the city. A shepherd finds him sleeping on a hilltop, and... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Esteban and Manuel have always respected Captain Alvarado and even done some work for him in... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
That night, Captain Alvarado treats Esteban to dinner and gets him very drunk. Gently, the captain says that he’s heard Esteban... (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Esteban says that he wants to give the Abbess a present before he sets out. Once,... (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
When the drunken Esteban finally passes out, Captain Alvarado stands outside the bar and looks up at the sky,... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
In the morning, Esteban has a change of heart and says he doesn’t want to join the crew after... (full context)
Dogma vs. Altruism Theme Icon
Esteban falls to the floor, crying out in anguish that he is alone. Looking at him,... (full context)
Acts of God and Individual Will Theme Icon
Esteban recovers his composure, and the two men set off for Lima. When they reach the... (full context)
Part 5: Perhaps an Intention
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...the whole affair is before leaving early to sit on his boat and reflect on Esteban. (full context)
Acts of God and Individual Will Theme Icon
Dogma vs. Altruism Theme Icon
After Doña Clara leaves, the Abbess visits the sick people. Thinking of Esteban and Pepita, she talks to them of people who are left in the dark with... (full context)
Acts of God and Individual Will Theme Icon
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...she is talking, the Abbess reflects 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... (full context)