Research Paper – The Alchemist (Alchemy, Magical Realism, Gypsies, and Fate) Ryan Yoder, Ariana Amador, Cassie Garza, Edgar Vargas R. Medina AP English Lang. & Comp. January 26, 2011 Research Paper – The Alchemist (Alchemy, Magical Realism, Gypsies, and Fate) The Alchemist was a book full of many meanings jumbled into one complete novel. For the most part the novel was circled around the point of defining the fate of Santiago’s life. In order to establish the fate of Santiago’s life he must visit a gypsy. Gypsies rely upon the power of alchemy to create spells and other natural things to create spells which help them define someone’s fate.
Throughout the book Paulo joins these ideas with magical realism which seems to be his theme in this story. The whole novel is made to incorporate many things that normally would not be able to be combined together into a novel that is so absolutely addicting, that you will not want to put down. The term magical realism was first used by art historian Franz Roh in 1925. It was used to describe a visual arts movements emerging throughout Europe. Nowadays it describes contemporary fiction, usually associated with Latin Americans, whose narrative blends magical or fantastical elements with reality.
One of the main goals of magical realism is to see the world through another person’s eyes or perspective, presumably to help the reader open a world of alternate possibilities and meanings. “It is also characterized by paradoxical events which are never fully explained by the author, and these events are often accepted as perfectly normal and in fact usual by the characters of figures in the world of the artwork. ” (4) Some popular books that have magical realism style are The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende , Love in Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
Magical realism in other words, is combination of magic and existent events written in a book. Alchemy is also a combination of magic, and science which main goal is to convert less valuable metals to gold or silver. By definition, alchemy is a way of studying and experimenting with matter that includes elements of chemistry, philosophy, and spirituality. Before the development of modern chemistry, alchemists tried to understand the changes they saw in metals and other materials that were exposed to fire and acids. People today still practice alchemy, but modern alchemists primarily seek spiritual transformation, and base their studies on philosophy. ”(1) The process of trying to make gold or silver out of cheaper metals is called transmutation. This process was practiced by almost one-hundred percent of all alchemists ever known in history. Alchemists and metal-smiths used similar techniques as well, but alchemists often saw themselves as trying to speed up or perfect the workings of nature.
Some alchemists searched for the philosopher’s stone, which they thought could greatly speed up the transmutation process. Many alchemists believed that they could perfect and purify materials only if they themselves were spiritually perfected and purified in the process. Ancient societies in Egypt, India, and China practiced alchemy. Egyptian writers produced a number of written works on alchemy from approximately 200 B. C. to A. D. 200. Scholars in Arab built on these works from the 640’s to about 1200 A. D.. When alchemy reached Europe around 1100 A. D. t grew rapidly, especially in noble courts. At its peak in the 1600’s, a number of famous scientists practiced alchemy, including Robert Boyle of Ireland and the very famous, Isaac Newton of England. In the late 1700’s, many educated people began to ridicule alchemy as pseudoscientific, or falsely claiming scientific merit, and deceptive. Alchemists based their ideas on the ancient Greek belief that matter consists of four elements: water, earth, air, and fire. Alchemists also believed that all metals could be reduced to a single type of matter, thus being able to transform into each other.
In the 700’s, Arab alchemists thought that the qualities of all metals could be explained through sulfur, a well known element which burns in hot fires, and mercury, a liquid at room temperature that has a metallic shine. In the early 1500’s, the Swiss physician Philippus Paracelsus, thought that sulfur, mercury, and salt gave metals their distinctive qualities, thus able to distinguish each and every one of them. Alchemy played a key role in the development of modern day science. The theories of alchemy gave rise to a modern chemical theory and something interesting, or eye catching, to learn about.
Modern experimental techniques developed from such alchemical practices as studying nature in a laboratory, observing experiments and keeping records, other wise known as data, and measuring the ingredients and products of chemical reactions. Alchemy plays a huge role in the novel, The Alchemist, in such a way that, in the prologue there is an alchemist that picks up a book that someone in the caravan had brought. He begins to leaf through the pages and finds a story about Narcissus. The alchemist knew the legend of Narcissus, a young child who knelt daily beside a lake to contemplate his own beauty.
One morning, he was so fascinated with himself that he fell into the lake and drowned. At that very spot were he fell in a flower grew, which was called the Narcissus. When Narcissus died the goddess of the forest appeared at the lake, she asked the lake if Narcissus was really beautiful. The lake said that it did not know because it was too busy staring into Narcissus’s eyes to view it’s own beauty. The story is what sets up the excitement of the novel. During the novel, a boy named Santiago was having dreams about a hidden treasure, and seeks a gypsy for help.
She is the first one Santiago consults about his dream. She is mysterious and yet religious as can be attested by the Sacred Heart of Jesus picture on her wall. She tells Santiago that because it was a child who took his hands in the dream and led him to the pyramids, so he must go. However, before she tells him anything, she makes him promise that he will give her one-tenth if he finds his treasure. Some people who were associated to alchemy were gypsies. Many gypsies were involved in basket making, copper work, and the mending of China ware. The term gypsy has several overlapping meanings. Initially the word was used to refer to the Romani People, who appeared in England at about the beginning of the 16th century. ” (3) In the book, the gypsy Santiago encountered, was some what of a fortune teller. She would, or tried to decide someones fate, or destiny. Historical gypsies, or true Romany, tended to go from door to door selling pegs and fortune telling. True Romany fashioned anything from wood and excelled in palmistry and astrology. They also learned to travel the highways and byways from place to place selling products of trade. Another gypsy trait was the involvement in the planets natural gifts.
Most gypsies relied on roots, berries, vegetables, green foods and nature’s herbs for medicine. Gypsies believed that all of nature’s products all contained a direct message from the sun. Along with environmental remedies for medicine gypsies use organic materials to make simple spells and rituals which they believe harness the power of nature and the elemental spirits. Though many gypsies perform these spells, most Romany people would profess a belief in an official religion of the country, which is why many are born-again Christians, they try to teach us to take the joy in the moment. Fate is something that unavoidably befalls a person. It is the universal principle or ultimate agency by which the order of things is presumably prescribed. ” (2) It is basically something that is out of your hands, something that the lord will only control. By relating different terms that are related to the novel The Alchemist our understanding of the novel should be more clear. Magical realism, alchemy, gypsies, and fate can relate to each other by many different ways. Although they don’t have many themes in common it is possible to transmit the purpose and the relations about them.
We don’t really know how the work of fiction is going to end but we hope that all the variety we found in these terms would reflect on the novel. Works Cited (1) “Alchemy. ” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 18 Jan. 2011. Web. 26 Jan. 2011. . (2) “Fate. ” Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. 26 Jan. 2011. Web. 26 Jan. 2011. . (3) “Gypsy. ” Dictionary. com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 26 Jan. 2011. Web. 26 Jan. 2011. . (4) “Magic Realism. ” Alberto Rios Definitions. 23 May. 2002. Web. 26 Jan. 2011.