Kahlil Gibran Analysis
Kahlil Gibran, who immigrated to the US from Lebanon as a child, is most famous for his 1923 work The Prophet. The book is a popular bestseller translated into fifty languages, but it has not been beloved by literary critics. The book has sold millions of copies, but it does not show up on lists of best American literature, being considered by many to be sentimental, vague, and overly idealistic. These were traits associated with nineteenth-century literature that the twentieth century literati were working hard to shed when The Prophet arrived on the scene.
In The Prophet, the wise sage (prophet) Almustafa is on the verge of leaving Orphalese, his home for twelve years. The seeress Almitra asks him to share his wisdom with the people before he leaves. He answers questions on twenty-six important subjects in life, each comprising a short chapter. He provides wisdom on love, marriage, passion, pain, talking, religion, friendship, teaching, time, death, and many other subjects. Almustafa speaks in aphorisms, which are short, pointed statements conveying truths. Most of his paragraphs are only one sentence long, allowing his work to flow and be easily read in small pieces. An example of his writing style is below, as Almustafa speaks on marriage:
You were born together, and together you shall be for evermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness.
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Many attribute The Prophet's popularity to the fact that Gibran draws from a variety of religious and cultural traditions to state universal truths that are broad enough to be open to various individual interpretations. The book was exceptionally popular in the 1960s and has been associated with "hippie" culture. It is often quoted at wedding ceremonies.
In 1928, Gibran published Jesus, the Son of Man, considered by many critics to be his finest literary achievement. It was praised in early reviews. In it, seventy-seven people, such as Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, Mary Magdalene, Judas's mother, a shepherd, and others talk about Jesus as if they are being interviewed. The book is noted for its ability to provide rounded characterizations of its speakers and for allowing them to express individual points of view. It is less popular than The Prophet because it focuses on one religion rather than universal truths. It is also less inspirational than The Prophet.
Broken Wings was published in Arabic in 1912 and later translated into English. It is set in Lebanon around the year 1900 and critiques religious hypocrisy and the lack of women's rights in the Middle East. In it, as in Romeo and Juliet, two young lovers meet secretly, because the woman, Selma, has been engaged by her family to another man. The two lovers are discovered and separated. The book explores the theme of happiness versus money.
Kahlil Gibran was a world-renowned Lebanese American poet, author, visual artist, and journalist. In addition to his literary and artistic career, Gibran is also considered a philosopher who harmoniously mixed Western philosophy—particularly Christian philosophy and existentialism—and the Middle Eastern philosophy he absorbed during his youth. Kahlil Gibran's writing style is poetic and esoteric in nature, reminiscent of poet William Blake's style of writing. Gibran's writing style is also similar to that of Rumi, the thirteenth-century Persian poet-philosopher.
Kahlil Gibran's poems—both those in traditional verse and those in prose format—are highly vivid with imagery and symbolism, giving his writings a Freudian quality that speaks to the subconscious, or primal state, within the reader. Kahlil Gibran explores many Christian themes—for example, good versus evil—and imagery, but Gibran believed that both "light" and "dark" elements in people are symbiotic parts that are essential. Gibran spoke of a universal type of...
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