The Alchemist - a Pilgrim's Progress

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Allegory is a representation of an abstract or spiritual significance through concrete or product types, metaphorical treatment of one topic under the guise of another. To put it simply allegory is a story in words or prose, with double significance. It has a primary or a surface meaning and it has actually got a secondary or under the surface meaning. One of the best understood allegory in English language, is John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress”. The Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory of a Christian’s redemption.

The most succinct summary of the action in The Pilgrim’s Progress is probably the extended title of the work: “The Pilgrim’s Development from this World to that which is to Come: Provided under a Similitude of a Dream”. The unique consists of life of Christian written in the manner of a man’s journey from his native city, The City of Damage to the Celestial City.

The various individuals that Christian meets, even the things that occur along the way are the allegorical representation of the experience of a person who seeks for his everlasting redemption.

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Christian is any male who leaves everything of his old life behind and begins on his journey. ‘The Pilgrims Progress’ is a work of art by the Puritan writer John Bunyan. The work renders individual and spiritual experience of his earlier work ‘Grace Abounding’ into the more objective form of universal misconceptions, where all Christians who look for the reality are embodied with the figure of a solitary guy pursuing his expedition.

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John Bunyan was born in 1628 at Elstow near Bedford. At a young age (1650 – 54) he went through a spiritual crisis for many years. He was extremely much attracted to puritan mentors.

The spiritual crisis he under went is described in his ‘Grace Abounding’. With the resolution to convert others and help them in their spiritual problem, Bunyan joined the nonconformist church in Bedford, in 1653 where he came into contact with the Quakers against whom he published his first writings, ‘Some Gospel Truths Opened’ (1656) and ‘A Vindication’ (1657). In November 1660, he was arrested while preaching in the fields. He refused to cease preaching and spent most of the next twelve years in Bedford goal. During the first half of this period, he wrote nine books and among them were ‘The Holy City’ or ‘The New Jerusalem’ (1665), which was inspired by a passage in the book of Revelation, and his most well known book in this period, ‘Grace Abounding to the Chief of sinners’(1666). His spiritual autobiography.

During the latter years of his imprisonment, Bunyan also began the ‘Pilgrims Progress’, the work for which he is the most famous. In 1672, after his release from prison, he became pastor of the Bedford separatist church, but was imprisoned again in 1676 for a shorter period of about six months during which he probably finished the first part of ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’, which was published in 1678. The second part of ‘The pilgrim’s Progress’ was written six years after the first (1684) and is really an independent work. It doesn’t consist any of the life and death struggles of the first part. The work is not a forced sequel: it is a different book, a bursting social novel. The interest has been shifted from the lonely epic of the individual to the problems of the small urban community of nonconformist: problems of mixed marriages, the need for cohesion and the difficulty certain members have (fearing, feeble mind) in fitting into the life of the church.

Here Bunyan has passed from an autobiographical first novel to an external, more calculated subject. The second part together with the whole work was published in 1684. John Bunyan’s other works include ‘The Life and Death of Mr. Badman’ (1680) and ‘The Holy War’ (1682). He died just when the period of religious persecution was coming to an end The Alchemist is another allegorical of work of recent time, by Paulo Coelho. The story is about a young shepherd boy named Santiago, who goes in search for his treasures. He was guided by omens. The Gypsy woman, the old King and the Alchemist also helps him and guides him towards his treasures. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within.

To return to the roots or to the place from where his journey began was the ultimate lesson he had to learn. There he found his treasure. ‘The Alchemist’ is an allegorical work in the sense that, on the surface, it’s a story of a boy who goes in search of a treasure hidden near the pyramids in Egypt. But the story contains a deeper meaning; it was a journey of self discovery, a journey of fulfilling ones obligation in this world. Along with the material treasure he also discovers the treasure or the power that he possessed. He learned many useful lessons that helped him in the journey. According to Paulo Coelho a person’s Treasure is his heart’s greatest desire, thinking of which will make him excited. The young shepherd boy in the boy desired to travel around the world, visit many cities.

So his journey to the pyramids can be considered as his treasure. Paulo Coelho the author of ‘The Alchemist’ is a Brazilian novelist. He was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 1947. At a young age Paulo discovered his true vocation: to be a writer. But his parents could not accept his desire and he was considered to be affected by mental illness by his own parents. But he listened to his calling in life and became a writer. Following the suggestion of a stranger Paulo walked the road of Santiago, the medieval pilgrim route. This experience inspired him to write ‘pilgrimage: Dairy of Magus’ , in which he describes his experience and discovery that the extraordinary occurs in the lives of ordinary people, and he was also inspired to write ‘The Alchemist’ a year later.

He has gone to write many other best selling books that have touched the hearts of people everywhere: By the River of Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, The Fifth Mountain, Veronika Decides to Die, The Devil and Miss Prym, Warrior of the light: A Manual, The Zabir, and Eleven Minutes ‘The Alchemist is a story of following ones calling in this world, discovering ones destiny and living it. The novel is filled with myths and it’s written as a fable. The story has a magical touch to it and is adventurous. Allegory ‘Allegory: A story picture etc with a hidden meaning.’ (Oxford English Mini Dictionary) Allegory is a device in which characters or events represent or symbolizes ideas and concepts.

An allegory is a narrative, whether in prose or verse, in which the agents and actions, and sometimes the setting as well are contrived by the author to make coherent sense on the ‘literal’ or primary level of signification and at the same time to communicate a second, correlated order of signification. The term derives from Greek allegoria ‘speaking otherwise’. As a rule an allegory is a story in verse or prose with double meaning: a primary or surface meaning, and a secondary or under the surface meaning. It is a story, therefore that can be read, understood and interpreted at two levels (and in some cases at three or four levels.) It is thus closely related to the fable and the parable.

The form maybe literal or pictorial (or both as in emblem books) Allegory has an immense power of illustrating complex idea and concepts in a digestible concrete way. It has no determinate length. In allegory a message is communicated by means of symbolic figures, actins or symbolic representation. An allegory is generally treated as a figure of rhetoric. A rhetorical allegory is a demonstrative form of representation conveying means other than the words that are spoken. As a literary device an allegory in its most general sense is an extended metaphor. One of the best known examples is Plato’s ‘The Allegory of the Cave’. In this allegory there are a group of people who have lived there lives facing a blank wall. The people watch the shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows.

According to the allegory the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality We can distinguish two main types of allegory, historical and Political allegory, in which the characters and actions are signified literarily in their twin represents or ‘allegorize’ historical personages and events. So in John Dryden’s ‘Absalom and Achitophel’ (1681), the biblical David represents Charles II of England, Absalom Represents his natural son The duke of Mammouth, and the biblical story of Absalom’s rebellion against his father (2 Samuel 13 – 18) allegorizes the rebellion of Mammouth against king Charles In the second type, the sustained allegory of ideas, the central device is the personification of abstract entities such as virtues, vices, state of mind, mode of life, and types of characters. In explicit allegories, such reference is specified by the name given to characters and places.

Thus John Bunyan’s ‘The Pilgrims Progress’ allegorizes the Christian doctrine of salvation by telling how the character named Christian , warned by Evangelist, flees the City of Destruction and makes his way laboriously to the Celestial City. He also encounters characters with names like Faithful. Hopeful and the Giant of Despair along the way; and passes through the Slough of Despond, the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and Vanity Fair. Allegory is a narrative strategy which may be employed in any literary forms or genre. The early sixteenth century Everyman is an allegory in the form of morality play. ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ is a moral and religious allegory in a prose narrative.

Sustained allegory was a favorite form in the middle ages when it produced masterpieces, especially in the verse – narrative mode of the dream vision in which the narrator falls asleep and experiences an allegorical dream; this mode includes the fourteenth century Dante’s ‘ Divine Comedy’ , the French Roman ‘De La Rose’, Chaucer’s ‘ House of Fame’ and William Longland’s ‘Piers Plowman’. Allegory was on the whole devalued during the twentieth century but has been reinvested with positive valued by some recent theorists. The Marxist critic Fredric Jamesen uses the term to signify the relation of a literary text to its Historical subtext, its ‘political Unconscious’. And Paul de Man elevates allegory, because, it candidly manifests its artifice, over what he calls the more ‘mystified’ concepts of the symbol which seems to promise falsely a unity of form and content, thought and expression.

The origins of allegory are very ancient and it appears to be a mode of expression (a way of feeling and thinking about things and saying them) so natural to the human mind that it is universal. Its fundamental origins are religious. Much myth for example is a form of allegory and is an attempt to explain the universal facts and forces. The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, for instance, is a notable example of the allegory of redemption and salvation. In fact, most classical myth is allegorical The most succinct summary of the action in the The Pilgrim’s Progress is probably the extended title of the work: The Pilgrim’s Progress from this World to that which is to come: Delivered under the Similitude of a Dream. In the first part, Christian receives his calling from the Evangelist and leaves his wife and children behind in the City of Destruction.

Passing through the Slough of Despond, he goes through the Wicket Gate (the gate through which the elect must pass, beginning their journey to Heaven) and soon comes to the Interpreter’s house, where he learns to think metaphorically. Soon after, he sheds his burden, recieves the garb and certificate of the elect from some angels, and arrives at the Beautiful Palace. Leaving the palace, Christian slips down into the Valley of Humiliation, where he battles the fiend, Apollyon. After transversing the Valley of the Shadow of Death in the dark, he catches up to his friendFaithful. He and Faithful arrive in Vanity-Fair, where they are arrested. Faithful is tried and burnt at the stake, though Christian is miraculously delivered.

Hopeful, inspired by Faithful’s faith, continues on with Christian. They soon come to the Doubting Castle, owned by the Giant Despair. Fortunately, they escape from the dungeon there and make their way to the Delectable Mountains. The shepherds in the foothills warn them about the Flatterer and other threats in the last leg of their journey, but Christian and Hopeful are fooled anyway. An angel rescues them, but punishes them for being so blind when they had been warned. In the final stretch, they encounter Ignorance, who has not entered through the Wicket Gate. In Beulah, which abuts heaven, Christian and Hopeful arrive at the river. To cross the river isto die, but the must cross it in order to enter into heaven.

When they arrive at the gates to the Celestial City, they are welcomed graciously with a trumpet fanfares, and they take their place alongside the rest of the elect. Ignorance gets to the gate, but because he doesn’t have a certificate of election, he is sent to hell. The pilgrim’s progress to heaven completed, the author awakes from his dream. Part two begins with Christiana’s conversion experience, which includes a dream and a messenger from heaven. She, her sons, and the neighbor, Mercy, set out. Mercy is almost not let through the Wicket Gate, but Christiana intercedes on her behalf, and the pilgrims set out.

At the Interpreter’s house, they are provided with a guide, Mr. Great-Heart, for their journey. The pilgrims arrive soon after at the Beautiful Palace, where they stay and learn for quite some time. Matthew gets sick from eating the devil’s fruit, but he soon recovers. When they finally continue, Great-Heart is there to protect them. They pass through the Valley of Humiliation and the Valley of the Shadow of Death without incident. At the end of the valley, Great-Heart slays the Maul, a giant. The pilgrims meet Honesty along the road, and he joins their band. Tired, Christiana wishes for an inn, and one appears. The pilgrims stay with Gaius, the innkeeper, for quite some time. Matthew and Mercy get married, as do James and Giaus’s daughter. He is a kind and educated man, and a gracious host. After that, Great-Heart slays another giant, resuces Feeble- Mind, and the pilgrims arrive in Vanity.

They stay with one of the few good men in town, Mr. Mnason, and set off again without incident. Great-Heart and the other men slay Giant Despair when they come to the by-path, and they rescue his prisoner, Mr. Despondency. The pilgrims continue through Madam Bubble’s Enchanted Ground, acquring more pilgrims as they go. Soon, the make it to the Delectable Mountains, where the shepherds prepare them for the final stage of their journey. They cross into Beulah and prepare to cross the river. Christiana is summoned first, followed by the rest of the men they picked up along the way. When they have entered triumphally into the City of Zion, the boys and their wives decide to stay behind to grow the church on earth.

‘Pilgrims Progress’ is one of the greatest allegorical work in English literature. This religious allegory is an allegory of the Christian in search if salvation. Christian is everyman who leaves behind their life for an eternal life. The allegory is simple, drawing it inspiration from the bible. On the surface the novel depicts an image of a man on his journey. But in a deeper the novel show the life of a Christian who being burdened about the sinful nature that’s within him, seeks to be freed from it. In his desperation he leaves behind his old life with all its pleasures in order to attain salvation. The journey made by Christian in the novel is an adventurous and a battle of life. It depicts the different stuations faced by a Christian when he repents and become converted.

The battle is both an inner battle ( battle against the sinful nature, the flesh) and an outward battle ( against worldy attraction and the principalities of this world). In both these battles he has to be found faithful in order to gain his salvation. One of the best known allegory in English language is Bunyan’s The Pilgrims Progress (1678). This is an allegory of Christian salvation. The allegory can be interpreted on different levels. Literally it is a journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City despite the great perils.

Allegorically it is the progress of anny Christian from Baptism through trials to heaven.Morally it is about the courage trust effort and faith to reach the goal. And in the anagogic sense The Pilgrim’s Progress is about God’s providence and care for us. Our worthiness of the eternal goal, to get to the city. Christian, the hero, represents Everyman. He flees the terrible city of destruction sets off on his pilgrimage. In the course of it he passes through the slough of despond, the Interpreter’s House, The House of Brautiful, The Vally of Humiliation, The Valley of the Shadow of Death, Vanity Fair, Doubting Castle, The Delectable Mountains, and The Country of Beulah and Finally arrives at the Celestial City. On the way he meets various characters, including Mr. Worldly Wiseman, Faithful, Hopeful, Giant despair, the fiend Apollyon and many others.

In the second part of the book, Christian’s wife and children make their pilgrimage accompanied by Mercy. They are helped and escorted by Great Heart, who destroys Giant Despair and other monsters. Eventually they too arrive at the Celestial City. The Pilgrims Progress is a Classic novel of the 17th century. The theme of this novel is highly spiritual. The novel contains puritan ideas alone. The style is very different from the modern times. Whereas The Alchemist is a novel of modern times. It is based on a very different theme. The theme In The Alchemist is more about ones fate dreams and aspiration. The plot of this novel is entirely different from that of The Pilgrims Progress. The Story of The Alchemist revolves around discovering ones own personal treasure and fulfilling it.

The story is about a young Shepherd boy Named Santiago, who travels from his homeland in Spain To the Egyptian Desert in search of a treasure buried in the pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king and an Alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within The Pilgrim’s Progress and The Alchemist are two different books written in two different ages, both are good examples of allegorical works.

But are they just two works of allegory, or is there some similarity or relation between the two works? The Pilgrim’s Progress has allegorized the Christian salvation in the form of a man on a journey from his homeland to the city where he’ll find his eternal treasure. But The Alchemist is an allegorical work in the sense that, it is about a shepherd boy who dreams about a treasure buried near the pyramids in Egypt, he goes in search for it and along the way he discovers and lives his personal treasure or Fate.

Like The pilgrim’s Progress, The Alchemist can be interpreted on different levels – Literally it is about a boy who dreams of a treasure buried in the pyramids of Egypt and goes in search for it. Alleorically it can be interpreted as a boy who is seeking his personal treasure or his fate and lives it. Morally it teaches us to see our personal treasures (fate) as our personal duty, which we have to find in this world and fulfill it. And in the anagogic sense it say that our treasure is where our heart is and that all the universe conspires to help us achieve our hearts desires.

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The Alchemist - a Pilgrim's Progress. (2017, Feb 17). Retrieved from

The Alchemist - a Pilgrim's Progress
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