Literature has always been able to dazzle the human mind. Its magic is not in how beautifully the letters are written or how the sentences are arranged. Undoubtedly, it also plays an important role in the perception of a text, but what sets literature apart from other works of art is the ability to freely interpret texts using only imagination. Literature is a unique and different kind of art, and the power of imagination in combination with the story flow makes the same novel different for every person.
For a closer look at the impact of fantasy on the text, one can consider two examples of iconic works by great writers, Amiri Baraka and Paolo Coelho. When first examining the play The Dutchman and the Slave, there was a persistent feeling that the text was too open from the beginning, where there are prescribed characters, a clear position for them on stage, and the principles they follow. But as one delves deeper into the writing, there are more and more questions. One of the main ones is “Who is Lula and how does she know so much about the young man she is talking to?” This gives free rein to interpretation and allows one to think about the piece more deeply and solve this puzzle (Hoda and Salem 3). Unfortunately, the author never reveals the identity of the play’s heroine, but the ending will make one think about who she is and what her motive is (Baraka 2). However, the figure of Lula is incredibly mysterious and the author deliberately confuses the reader, making it unclear where the lie is, and confusing the reader whether she is an actress or a writer. But in the end, one can understand her motive and build a logical chain of origin for this girl.
Regarding the novel The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho, the situation is quite the opposite. If in Baraka it was the viewer who had to use his imagination to solve some problem, in this case, on the contrary, the author demonstrates how he sees his world and fills it with the main character’s bizarre adventures. In The Alchemist, Santiago’s protagonist finds himself in very strange and unusual situations that help him to find himself. Here Coelho has used his imagination to the maximum, adding unusual locations, namely deserts in Egypt, strange characters like the fortune teller and the alchemist himself, and rather atypical situations, such as finding something unknown even to the hero (Coelho 24). It is rather difficult to recall a work that combines a treasure hunt and a search for self, with the addition of philosophical reflections and an ending that can surprise its reader (Shinde 8). From such examples of works, one might think of Eugène Jaunesco’s The Lesson, which was a brilliant representative of the theatre of the absurd, but Coelho does not cross this line, deftly balancing the fictional and the real world.
Coelho and Baraka’s work exemplify the influence of the imagination on literature. The Dutchman and the Slave and The Alchemist show literature from two different sides – the reader and the writer. It is these works that can be compared to each other in a statement about the influence of the imagination on literature and the contribution it makes to the development of plots and characters. As can be seen, imagination has a huge impact on the understanding of the novel or the play, and it depends on how the reader and the writer get the meaning and provide the information.
Baraka, Amiri. The Dutchman and the Slave. New York, Harper Perennial, 2001.
Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist. New York, N.Y. Spark Publishing, 2014.
Hoda, Abdel, and Salem. “Symbolism and Race in Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman.” European Journal of English Language and Literature Studies, vol. 9, no. 4, 2021, pp. 1–9.
Shinde, Pooja Pradeep. “Quest for Self as Reflected in Paulo Coelho’s Novel, “the Alchemist.” Shanlax International Journal of English, vol. 8, no. 2, 2020, pp. 7–10, 10.34293/english.v8i2.2026.