Summary and Analysis
Chapter 8 takes place in Cuzco and Machu Picchu, Peru. Cuzco is the "oldest permanent settlement in the Western Hemisphere." The brothers are becoming friends with fellow tour mates Bob and Kate Devlin, who have been married for 41 years. Their lengthy marriage becomes the subject of the brothers' conversation regarding a successful marriage. Nicholas thinks that commitment is the source of a successful marriage, whereas Micah thinks it is communication. Nicholas prefers actions over words.
In the cathedral of Cuzco, which is larger than St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, Micah fixates on seeing the painting of Jesus eating a guinea pig. The brothers visit many museums and view a lot of boring pottery, but they do find the bones quite interesting.
The trip to Machu Picchu as well as the ruined city itself are breathtaking — so much so that it is Nicholas' "favorite stop on the entire journey." That night, both brothers taste guinea pig. Micah calls this action "the latest in a long line of stupid things that we've done," and the narrative shifts back to their growing up.
The boys continued to grow up and, to some extent, grow apart. They were doing similar things, but not together. Nicholas continued to read; Micah continued to get in trouble. Dana, who was not a good student, gets horseback riding lessons. Nicholas' perception was that he gets nothing: For Christmas that year, Nicholas received a shiny but used bike, whereas both Micah and Dana received new bikes. His mother posted Nicholas' grade card on the refrigerator but only for one evening because "It hurts the other kids' feelings." Looking back, the adult Nicholas is able to see the insecurities that his siblings had, even though that was not apparent at the time.
Jill had three basic statements about life, which she often used in a variety of sequences when arguing:
It is your life, usually with some added social commentary.
What you want and what you get are usually two entirely different things.
No one ever said that life was fair.
Although Nicholas hated having these conversations, because he failed to win the arguments, he respected his mother's experience and grew to internalize her philosophy.
The topic of marriage is an important component of Three Weeks with My Brother — the brothers examine their parents' marriage as well as their own marriages.
Details about their spouses as well as their comments about what is the secret for a successful marriage indicate the respect the brothers have for the institution. Any marriage that has both commitment and communication will be a success, so both brothers are correct in their assessment. Even though their parents' marriage and parenting style may not be considered conventional, it worked for their family, and the brothers both acknowledge and respect that.
The beauty of what the brothers see and experience on their trip is important because it is living up to Nicholas' expectations from what was advertised in the brochure. And readers who have not had a chance themselves to take such a trip are able to live vicariously through Nicholas' finely detailed recollection. In addition to visiting the places, Nicholas and Micah made time to experience the sites they were visiting. Rather than just continue with the tours and the non-stop looking, they made the time to be alone at sites. This enabled them to learn and feel a sense of history and place.
Nicholas' allusion to Sophie's Choice is an adult way of explaining the feelings the young Nicholas had. Sophie's Choice is about an impossible choice that a parent had to make between her children. In this intense comparison, Nicholas feels that he would have been the one to be sacrificed.
In a seemingly throw-away line, Nicholas suggests that perhaps he should try another sport instead of football; this foreshadows a major part of Nicholas' life because he becomes a very successful runner.
surreptitiously acquired through improper means
Urubamba Valley the Sacred Valley of the Incas in the Andes of Peru
Hiram Bingham an academic, explorer, treasure hunter and politician from the United States who made public the existence of the Quechua citadel of Machu Picchu in 1911
marauder someone who attacks in search of booty
Yosemite a national park spanning eastern portions of Tuolumne, Mariposa and Madera counties in east central California, United States
Half Dome a granite dome in Yosemite National Park