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The town’s hollow adherence to religion is another form of deceit explored. Christ’s imagery, such as God abandoning the village is shown through the bishop, “the bishop didn’t get off his boat,” (15) but despite this he is still idolized by the town. Angela Vicario is another example of this deceit as she was always thought of as a saint, even though her name Angela means angel, but “no one would have thought [,] that Angela Vicario wasn’t a virgin” (37) exposes her deception. Later, by no accident Márquez also makes the prostitute Maria appear to be the only one telling the truth, “knowing her so well, I never doubted it” (50) as the premise of honesty as a trait of a prostitute is ironic, especially in this culture/religion where prostitution is disfavored. The dichotomy of the honest prostitute and lying saint is but one example of Márquez’s inversion of the sacred and the profane. This poses a problem for the narrator as the town’s ignorance and unwillingness to acknowledge the deceit of religion has symbolically blinded them to the murder.

The priest is staunchly religious but neither his nor the townspeople’s belief is rewarded. In the end, the idea of the purity of a virgin is tainted by the overbearing sense of impending doom that pervades the text. In this culture religion is highly valued even by Santiago, “church pomp had an irresistible fascination” (6). However, Márquez demonstrates the hypocrisy of this with small details such as the “coxcomb soup [and] Nasar had reason to feel cheated” (15-16) signifying waste and how religion has just become a way for the church to control the town. For instance, the bishop operates mechanically, “the bishop began to make the sign of the cross in the air [and] without malice or inspiration” (16). This imagery shows the fallacy and hollowness of religion within the town. Constant references to god, “god’s medicine” (20) used with no meaning also demonstrate this. The bishop is even said to “hate this town” (6).

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Marquez exhibits the extortion of the people of the town, implying that it is precisely the deceit of the absurd hollow religious lip service that allows the murder as honor killings are forgiven under religion. The bastardization of Father Amador through his dissection of Santiago’s corpse also shows this. The visual imagery, “syrup-colored liquid began to flow from his wounds” (74) presents another grueling depiction of religion. This simultaneously symbolically exhibits the lies the townspeople live by and do not wish to acknowledge.

Ultimately the question of deciphering the fate of Santiago will never truly be answered. But it is for this same reason that this text has risen to such prominence. The lies and deceit perpetrated by individuals, and the community as a whole are significant in ultimately sealing the fate of Santiago, this theme is but one angle to perceive the cause of the murder. If one is to truly understand the text, one must recognize that there will never be a right answer. The ambiguous nature of Márquez’s writing style, particularly his use of magical realism, would never allow it.

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Essay: Is ‘The Alchemist’ a Religious Book.
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