Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who is also known for being a storyteller ¹. Aside from his career, Sacks is a best-selling author having written twelve books up to date, all bringing together science and art ². One of his earlier pieces is his essay “Uncle Tungsten” which combines passion and the love for science. “Uncle Tungsten” is an essay that shows how passion drives the romance for science, romance being the strong fascination and enthusiasm for science, a “love affair”. Oliver Sacks uses narration to present the idea of romance for science through characters, the concept of a hero, and an ending that provides a lesson learned.
Sacks uses characters, a narrative technique, to present the idea of romance for science through Oliver’s observation of uncle Dave and his passion for the metal tungsten. Oliver Sacks tells the story from the point of view of himself as a young boy. He starts out with curiosity and interest in the demonstrations of chemistry presented to him by his uncle, and soon grows an understanding of the “love affair” for science. Uncle Dave has one of the biggest impacts on Sacks’s life, being the one who taught him the most about chemistry as a child.
Dave displays a love for the chemistry of metals, specifically tungsten, through the great passion he has for his work. The metal tungsten is more than just a metal to Dave, it is “his metal” (Sacks 217), the use of “his” gives tungsten more meaning with his use of possession of the metal. Dave’s passion for tungsten presents the idea of romance for science because of his enthusiasm and fascination in tungsten, “Uncle loved the density of the tungsten he made, and its refractoriness, its great chemical stability. He loved to handle it” (Sacks 215) .
The next narrative technique that can be analyzed is the concept of a hero, which presents the idea of romance for science by expressing the passion for chemistry demonstrated throughout the life of scientist Scheele. In the essay Dave’s hero is the well-known Swedish Chemist named Carl Wilhelm Scheele. Scheele has done so many great things in the world of chemistry including his discovery of Tungsten, which was Dave’s favorite metal. Not only did Scheele’s discoveries make him a hero for Dave, but also his dedication to his work without wanting the fame and money. Sacks’s use of a hero also demonstrates an example of how passion drives romance for science “Scheele epitomized for me the romance of science”(Sacks 219). Scheele was “wholly dedicated to his single passion, chemistry” (Sacks 219) which shows his strong, lifelong fascination and enthusiasm for chemistry presenting Sack’s idea of romance for science.
Narrative essays typically end with some kind of lesson learned ³, in addition to being a “hero”, Scheele also provides a lesson which leads oliver to discovering his own romance for science. Lessons generate a new knowledge or wisdom, which is commonly used to conclude a story and relates to the main point of the entire essay. Sack’s uses this approach to conclude his essay in a narrative way while summing up his main idea of romance for science. Scheele was a hero for uncle Dave and also impressed Oliver with his generosity and discoveries which really had an impacts on Oliver’s newfound love for chemistry.
After learning about Scheele, Oliver had come to a conclusion that he wanted to be a chemist just like Scheele “I wanted to be a chemist. A chemist like Scheele” (Sacks 219). The lesson learned in Sack’s essay is Oliver’s self discovery of his own romance for science, his strong fascination in the subject of science. Oliver’s use of the sentence “There seemed to me an integrity, an essential goodness, about a life in science, a lifelong love affair” (Sacks 219), summarizes the lesson he has attained from Scheele and also shows his enthusiasm in the subject, his romance for science.
In conclusion, Oliver Sacks has successfully presented his ideas through the use of a narrative essay. The main idea being romance for science was presented through the use of characters by Oliver’s observation of his uncle’s passion for the metal tungsten. The concept of a hero demonstrated how passion drives the romance for science because of Scheele’s complete dedication to chemistry. The ending with a lesson learned concluded Sacks’s main idea with Oliver’s discovery of his own romance for science. All of these techniques contribute to a narrative essay and helped Sacks to successfully present his main idea.
“Scientist of the week: Oliver Sack”. Pharmakon. 27 Sept. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://pharmakon.me/2012/09/27/scientist-of-the-week-oliver-sacks/> Anthony, Andrew. “Oliver Sacks: The visionary who can’t recognise faces”. The observer. 17 Oct. 2010. Web 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2010/oct/17/profile-oliver-sacks-author-neurologist> “Narrative Essay: ‘How to Guide’”. Narrative Essay. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://narrative-essay.org/> Sacks, Oliver. From Uncle Tungsten. The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing. Ed. Richard Dawkins. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. 214-19.