There are many different aspects of love depicted in The Pillars of the Earth. There is Philip’s love of God, for instance, which makes Philip strive to purify himself of lowly emotions of anger and greed to make himself worthy of God’s love. His love of God also opens his heart to humanity, as he constantly attempts to love those around him, whether that person is a beggar or thief or an unscrupulous bishop. Philip also has a great love for the orphan boy Jonathan, whom he views as a son. Above all else, it is Philip’s love that drives him to improve his surroundings, whether that means disciplining his monks, ensuring that his monastery flourishes, or overseeing the construction of his beloved cathedral. Tom the builder is also driven by love. He has two wives in the space of the story and loves both women deeply. He is proud and protective of his children. Tom also is in love with his profession as master builder, leaving readers to sometimes wonder if Tom loves building even more than the people in his life. The greatest physical love in this story is that between Jack and Aliena. The author pays special attention to the couple’s lovemaking, demonstrating how it embodies the deep feelings they have for one another as they struggle through all the challenges that life puts in their way. There is also the love of nature as expressed through the character Ellen, who is found just as often living deep within the natural environment as she is in the midst of people.
Although war is constantly raging throughout The Pillars of the Earth, the author only briefly provides close-up shots of these encounters of mass destruction. The more graphic scenes are of local aggression, such as when William takes over Aliena’s family compound and rapes her, or when he storms through Kingsbridge and destroys the town. Wherever William goes, someone is hurt, either physically or mentally, from the beginning to the end of the story, when he is finally hung. Although the story struggles with a notion of justice, having...
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