“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” (Coelho, 78)
The Alchemist is a novel by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho that was first published in 1988. Originally written in Portuguese, it later became a widely translated international bestseller, winning the United Kingdom’s 2004 Nielsen Gold Book Award, France’s Grand Prix Litteraire Elle in 1995, and Germany’s 2002 Corine International Award for fiction. The Alchemist follows the adventures of an Andalusian shepherd named Santiago, who seeks a treasure greater than all others. Along the way, he learns to listen to his heart and, more importantly, realizes that his dreams, or his Personal Legend, are not just his but part of the Soul of the Universe.
Santiago, the protagonist of the book, is an eminently dynamic character, a trait for which also helps clarify and further explain the theme of the story. Santiago begins his journey as shepherd in the far-reaching Andalusian plains, traveling across the south of Spain with no innate purpose or desire, until he meets the love of his life. The girl represents a dream, Santiago’s dream, and gives his life direction, meaning, and purpose.
“He was feeling something he had never experienced before: the desire to live in one place forever.” (Coelho, 7). The quote is short yet powerful, and attempts to more clearly begin to reveal the theme of the story. It also serves as an indicator of Santiago’s dynamism, and how his beliefs and thoughts are extremely subjective to the point of view presented to him.
“And when you can’t move back, you have to worry only about the best way of moving forward,” (Coelho, 73) The quote above displays that Santiago is a whole-hearted individual, who like all who reside on this Earth, is prone to mistakes. He however maintains the ability to learn from his mistakes, a vital skill is aiding him in his quest for fulfillment. Santiago finds his motivation in others and their belief in him, though by the fulfillment of his life he finds less need to rely on others and finds that his happiness is decided on his own. The other characters of the story as well have much significance, as they represent the mindsets of those who Santiago has not yet understood.
The Alchemist is undoubtedly a book of multiple themes due to its unique yet surprisingly coherent outlook on the intricacies of life. However, the most present and significant of them all is that all individuals should live in the singular pursuit of their respective dreams. The book promotes a persistence to achieve what one is destined to, utilizing both metaphorical and literal connections to the science of alchemy to clarify certain situations throughout the story.
“You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say,” (Coelho, 97) The quote obtained from a key section of the story displays how much the Alchemist values believing in one’s dream, and how he wishes to pass on his knowledge to Santiago. The alchemist is a judicious and just man, enlightened with the gifts of the Soul of the Universe. His ability to communicate with the Soul of the Universe develops him into the paragon of human life, and his bearing influence on Santiago affects the course of the story greatly.
An important excerpt from the book, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it,” (Coelho, 75), serves as an indicator and reminder to the reader, connecting and clarifying the above-mentioned point on following one’s heart. It indicates obstacles will nevertheless be present, however with a certain innate desire and willpower, the possibilities are endless.
The final quote, “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting,” (Coelho, 123) serves as inspiration and a continuation on the previous messages, once again displaying the importance of following your dreams and your heart.
Paulo Coelho’s theme and vaguely aristocratic message is eerily coherent amongst modern society. With global economies pushing for rapid socioeconomic development, many times the ethical aspects of issues present are simply disregarded. My Capstone Project primarily revolves around the issue of China’s aging population, and the thematic statement provided by Coelho shares multiple insights into possible qualitative solutions. While The Alchemist does very well focus on personal affairs rather than societal norm, it’s themes can be interpreted as credible and factual in all situations of life. China’s aging population is partly due to community-wide uncertainty towards accouchement, as well as sheer economic infeasibility. Paulo Coelho’s message of following your dreams enforces and provides certainty to possible future parents around the world, and while not a direct solution, is still a reasonably valid option towards ending China’s drastically aging and lessening population. The sheer validity of the philosophy presented by Coelho is an indicator that ideological changes within Chinese communities across the country can bear a significant impact on its development on a larger scale.
In short, the Alchemist is a thought-provoking and deeply philosophical book. It’s plot, characterization, and theme blend seamlessly with its seemingly abundant abstract and metaphysical outlooks on life, and provides its readers with a refreshing take on the meaning and purpose of life.