Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
The Prophet, Gibran’s most famous work, has sold more copies and been translated into more languages than any of his other writings. Its popularity has been attributed to its simple style, metrical beauty, and words of wisdom. It focuses on human relationships—with others, with nature, and with God.
Almustafa, a young prophet, has lived in Orphalese for twelve years and is waiting for the ship that will take him home. The townspeople beg him to stay, but Almustafa remains firm in his decision. Then they ask him to speak to them one more time, to share his words of wisdom on love, marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, joy and sorrow, houses, clothes, buying and selling, crime and punishment, laws, freedom, reason and passion, pain, self-knowledge, teaching, friendship, talking, time, good and evil, prayer, pleasure, beauty, religion, and death. His final words are a promise that he will return to Orphalese.
While the structure is narrative, the language is very rhythmic and biblical in style, using such phrases as “You have been told . . . but I say unto you” and “Verily I say unto you.” The repetition of such words as “but,” “and,” and “for” helps maintain the thought and logic of the theme as Gibran moves from response to response, as one idea suggests another. In addition, Gibran skillfully uses rhetorical questions. This can be observed in Almustafa’s response to the question about giving....
(The entire section is 523 words.)
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