Study Guide

The Lightning Thief Language and Communication

By Rick Riordan

Language and Communication

Chapter 2
Percy Jackson

"I'm not usually an eavesdropper, but I dare you to try not listening if you hear your best friend talking about you to an adult." (2.26)

What examples of eavesdropping do we see in this story? Do you blame Percy for eavesdropping in this moment? Sometimes the only way Percy can get any information is if he acts a bit sneakily.

Chapter 5
Percy Jackson

"The letters float off the page when you read, right? That's because your mind is hardwired for Ancient Greek. And the ADHD—you're impulsive, can't sit still in the classroom. That's your battlefield reflexes. In a real fight, they'd keep you alive. As for the attention problems, that's because you see too much, Percy, not too little. Your senses are better than a regular mortal's. Of course teachers want you medicated. Most of them are monsters. They don't want you seeing them for what they are." (5.145)

Percy's not "abnormal," he's super-human! After doubting himself for so long and hating the way his brain struggles to read or pay attention, Percy learns that he's in fact a superstar. Education and school in the mortal world is considered to be the means to opportunity, and if Percy's not good at it, then he understands that he won't have opportunity. But how frustrating is that? Just because his brain is wired differently, he's considered a dummy in the mortal world. Can you imagine the relief he must feel transitioning from being considered "bad" at school to a kick-butt demi-god? And it all happens so fast.

Then something happened. I felt a tug in the pit of my stomach. I heard the plumbing rumble, the pipes shudder. Clarisse's grip on my hair loosened. Water shot out of the toilet, making an arc straight over my head, and the next thing I knew, I was sprawled on the bathroom tiles with Clarisse screaming behind me. (5.165)

We see examples of non-verbal means of communication throughout this story, and this moment is one of them. Percy communicates with the water somehow; it has to do with the "tug" in the pit of his stomach. We begin to see that communication is not just reserved for humans, demi-gods, and gods. Nature and animals communicate too.

Chapter 9

Over the roar of the storm, I could hear the blue-robed one yelling at the green-robed one, Give it back! Give it back! Like a kindergartner fighting for his toy.

[…]

The ground shook. Laughter came from somewhere under the earth, and a voice so deep and evil it turned my blood to ice.

Come down, little hero, the voice crooned. Come down! (9.19-23)

Percy has a series of dreams throughout the story that seem to grow more and more violent and visceral. This is the first vivid dream that we hear about, and we can interpret it as Zeus and Poseidon fighting. Zeus's symbol is the eagle. Poseidon's symbol is the horse. They are fighting in Percy's dream perhaps because they are fighting up on Mount Olympus. This tells us that Percy is incredibly powerful – even before he knows that he is a half-blood or what that even means, he's dreaming about the gods. Gradually, his dreams become used to communicate or spy on something in the Underworld.

My fists clenched, though I knew this poker party couldn't be real. It was an illusion, made out of mist.

Gabe turned toward me and spoke in the rasping voice of the Oracle: You shall go west, and face the god who has turned.

His buddy on the right looked up and said in the same voice: You shall find what was stolen, and see it safely returned.

The guy on the left threw in two poker chips, then said:

You shall be betrayed by one who calls you a friend.

Finally, Eddie, our building super, delivered the worst line of all:

And you shall fail to save what matters most in the end. (9.130-134)

The Greek gods are big on knowing their fate and on knowing how things are going to turn out, but getting that information can be tricky, and even dangerous. The Oracle speaks in riddles, and these riddles really stump Percy and put him on his guard. Solving the riddles can help someone understand a situation, but misinterpreting the Oracle's words can really mess them up. Misinterpreting the Oracle is what leads to Percy's scorpion bite.

The Oracle

"Very well, Percy. But know this: the Oracle's words often have double meanings. Don't dwell on them too much. The truth is not always clear until events come to pass." (9.151)

Hold the phone. So, you seek out the Oracle's advice to help you understand what's about to happen, but "the truth is not always clear until events come to pass." Why should someone seek out the Oracle's advice? Is the Oracle helpful in this story? If so, how is the Oracle helpful? Why is it a good idea to hear what the Oracle has to say?

Chapter 11

Aunty Em stiffened, as if Annabeth had done something wrong, but then the old woman relaxed just as quickly, so I figured it must've been my imagination. (11.75)

The gods and monsters understand and interact with one another and with demi-gods on a non-verbal level. They use their senses to detect and understanding things around them. When monsters are able to smell Percy, what exactly are they smelling? What does this smell tell them?

Chapter 12

Grover explained that he had come across Gladiola in the woods and they'd struck up a conversation. (12.92)

Grover is perhaps the best communicator of all the characters. He can not only talk to animals, but he also seems to be able to communicate with nature itself. He may not be strong and burly and really good at sword-fighting, but his ability to talk to all kinds of things helps Percy in big ways on his quest.

Chapter 16

There was no sound, but as clear as day, I heard it say: Free me, lord. Please. (16.137)

What?! Percy not only can talk to water and things in the water, but he can talk to horses and animals that are related to horses. Poseidon created horses out of waves. The way in which this horse calls Percy "lord" makes Percy sound almost like a ruler or like someone who is very powerful.

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