In Rachel Joyce's debut novel, Harold Fry sets off on what the book title refers to as an "unlikely pilgrimage"; but can his journey correctly be called a pilgrimage if it doesn't have a religious destination?
Although most of us probably think of a pilgrimage as having religious connotations, the word has its roots in the Latin peregrinus, meaning coming from foreign parts. Thus, the lead definition in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) of a pilgrim is simply "one who travels from place to place: a wanderer, a sojourner".
Many reviewers refer to Harold's journey as a quest. Is that also an accurate description?
According to the OED, a quest is a search for something - such as the quest for the Holy Grail or for the cure for cancer. On the face of it, Harold is not on a quest because he knows the name and address of his objective, so there is no searching involved; but his journey has many more layers to it than the simple act of walking from one place to ...