Analysis

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Prophet's inspirational messages draw on the lives of many spiritual leaders and the religions and philosophies of many cultures. Uniquely combining them with powerful images and memorable phrases, Kahlil Gibran crafted a short but moving narrative that has shown remarkable staying power since its 1923 publication.

Perhaps the secret of Gibran's success was the ease with which people from many walks of life could identify with both the prophet and the content of his words. By paring down complicated philosophical ideas to their basics and emphasizing the importance of human conduct and connections, the author offers a work that can appeal even to people who generally do not read spiritually-oriented works.

Almustafa, the prophet of the title, has been accepted into a foreign society. Although he knows that his stay in Orphalese is temporary, he has maximized his time there by building strong bonds with its people. The appeal of his message is emphasized by the story's structure: it is the people who ask to hear his words—rather than him providing advice, unprompted. Because he answers their questions, it appears that the impetus for the instruction comes from them.

Although some of his sentences are commands, he manages to convey that the people's will and interior motivation are the reasons that they will follow his advice. Almustafa attributes their most profound ideas to God himself, as if God was speaking through their lips. Gibran organizes these talks as sermons and uses language people might hear in a house of worship. The use of paradox as well, in which the expected response is turned around, makes the ideas seem complex.

The core messages of unity and oneness hold a great appeal to most readers. Insisting that human beings are not only in harmony with nature but fully capable of understanding its mysteries, Gibran promotes self-esteem and confidence that the readers have both positive motivations and the capability of improving the world. The prophet's messages are fundamentally optimistic, leading his followers to hold on to hope as well.

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