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Sept. 6, 2007 Prof. Gaffud
Introduction Every person has his own dream. One may dream of being a president of the Philippines, others dream of being as rich as Bill Gates, while some dream of being the next big thing in the television. Yet one must realize that not all dreams become reality. Oftentimes, our dreams turn to failure. In spite of that, the key to success is the continuous belief in our capacity to achieve our dream. Despite many obstacles faced, one must still hold on to his dreams. For only God knows what destiny lies. God has entitled each one of us a purpose in this gigantic planet called Earth. Only through believing and following our dreams may we reach success and survive. The Title of the Book The Alchemist is a Fable About Following one’s Dream. It has been first published in Brazil in 1988. And up to now, the book is still recognized worldwide as a literary gem. The Alchemist probably is the most famous book of Paulo Coelho. It attracts readers to follow and believe in their dreams. The book has also been translated in more than 66 languages. According to statistics, the book has sold more than 40 million copies in more than 150 countries. (From Wikipedia) The Author of the Book Paulo Coelho is the author of The Alchemist. He is considered the second-bestselling author in the world (From The Alchemist back cover). He was born in 1947 in the city of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Before dedicating his life completely to literature, he worked as theatre director and actor, lyricist and journalist. He started his career as a writer by being a songwriter to famous Brazilian Singers such as Elis Regina and Rita Lee. His works focus on spiritual quests, love, religion, and the journeys of life. Aside from The Alchemist¸ he is also the author of other famous works such as Eleven Minutes, Veronika Decides to Die, Zahir, and The Devil and Ms. Prym. He and his wife Christina live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil up to now. In the following year, Coelho published The Alchemist, which is based on Jorge Luis Borges' Tale of Two Dreamers, which in turn was based on a tale from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights.
Notable Characters Santiago is a young boy Andalusian shepherd wherein all the novel revolves around. Being a shepherd is something he chose. His parents sent him to school and wanted him to become a priest. Yet he followed his own decisions and choices in exploring the vast world through journeys in being a shepherd. Once convinced that life has been fruitful in just being in the middle of the road, he dreamt of being with the
worldly treasures. Consequently, he decided to seek his treasures lying in the pyramids of Egypt. His dreams are omens and signs that he should seek for what his heart speaks of. Though reluctant to leave his sheep, he aspired of the things he may buy upon succeeding in this search. Santiago faces a journey like a roller-coaster ride, from the thief in Tangier, from the destitution of the caravan, upon meeting the alchemist, the tribal wars, upon learning the Universal Language and reaching the soul of the world until attaining his utmost desire to find his treasure. He has never given up despite the obstacles he has faced. This attitude must be in every individual – the willingness to succeed. The Gypsy Fortune Teller and Melchizedek were the people who gave Santiago information on searching his treasure. Both of them inspired Santiago to find his treasure for this is his destiny. They suggested that Santiago continue his journey in seeking the treasure. Notable comparison for both the Gypsy and the King are their interpretations on dreams and personal legends. Helping him to recover from the sufferings he had after the robbery in Tangier was the Crystal Glass Merchant. With his ideas to improve the business, he was loved by the merchant. When he was ready to leave, the merchant gave him his blessing. The Englishman is the character that lies in most people in the world today. The Englishman is searching for the Alchemist in the oasis of Al Fayoum. He learns mostly from the book yet does not apply what he learns. He shared his alchemy books to Santiago. Yet the alchemist does not help him in his journey. He is a contrast to Santiago who learns through interaction of human and his society rather than relying only to the printed books. It is indeed shown in the book that “Experience is the best teacher.” The Englishman is only confined to what he knows as stated from the book. The most notable character of the book is especially The Alchemist. Throughout the story, his identity remains mysterious. His name was never introduced yet his character is so powerful. He led to the success of Santiago by teaching him the simplicity of life by introducing the principles of alchemy. He made Santiago a stronger person and built his confidence upon facing the tribal wars.
Events that Changed the Course of Story Santiago never thought of leaving his flock of sheep. His dreams changed the course of story. From a daily routine of leading his flock to food and water, he confronted people who knew facts and information on the journeys, pilgrimages and roads to take. The gypsy and the king led him to search for his Personal Legend and leave the sheep he had for at most one year. After the consultation, he sold his sheep and used the money for the journey. Yet upon reaching Tangier, a part of Africa, he was robbed by a young man and took all his money. Depressed and sorrowful, it came to his mind not to continue the journey he began. He wanted to go back to Andalusia, and return to flock the sheep. Nonetheless, he met a crystal merchant and helped him in business. The crystal merchant wholeheartedly accepted him and Santiago stayed with him
for months. Santiago suggested that the crystals be filled with tea for the thirsty pilgrims. Yet Santiago had faced another conflict – to continue or to not. Subsequently, the two stones from the old king, gave him inspiration to continue and seek out his personal legend and not to go back to Andalusia without reaching his destiny. Santiago, on the other hand, luckily has been able to join the caravan going to Al Fayoum, the oasis. It was near the Egypt’s pyramids, and luckily the alchemist offered his help. Santiago predicted that the tribal wars would take place in the oasis which would break a sacred law. He predicted this based on the omens of the hawks. Continuing the journey, they were captured by a most powerful tribe. And they were given 3 days until Santiago could turn himself into the wind. Santiago learned the Soul of the World. And through his witty tongue, in a way, he turned himself into the wind. He talked to the sun, the Gods and the wind. The tribesmen were afraid of such majestic power. They freed Santiago and the Alchemist. Upon reaching the Coptic monastery, the alchemist turned lead into gold. The gold was brought by Santiago yet upon reaching the pyramids, a robber took all of what he has. Yet he learned that only in the old sacristy with the sycamore (as shown in the beginning of the book) lies his treasure. And he muttered to himself, “I’m coming Fatima,” the love of his life.
Marked Conflicts and Problems From the start of the story, Santiago’s conflict was the recurring dreams he has. It is the first conflict in the story. It is whether Santiago will pursue this dream or not. Yet, he faced the challenge and talked to the gypsy woman about the dreams. With the information that the treasure is in the pyramids of Egypt, more confusions were in the mind of Santiago. He was in Tarifa where he longed for the girl who was the daughter of a baker. He does not have self-confidence that he will still be remembered by the girl he once loved. Upon meeting the King of Salem, the course of events changes. He gave tenth of his flock for the information of the king. He gave him Urim and Thumimm, good and bad omens. Yet a marked conflict of Santiago is the continuity of the search for destiny or rather flock with his sheep. However, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity that is why Santiago faced the challenge. But due to circumstances, the money he traded from his sheep was stolen by a young man in Tangier. Though depressed, in the end, he continued his journey. The marked conflict in the caravan was reaching his treasure despite the tribal wars in the desert. Added up to this was the courage to talk to inanimate objects to prove his alchemy skills. He has to prove he could turn himself into the wind. But, he accomplished this task. In the end, another conflict came and stole the gold which the alchemist gave to Santiago. Yet the robber revealed that the treasure Santiago finds is just in the place where all his dreams began, where his hopes arose, and when he was still in peace. This just shows the simplicity of events in life. We need to pay attention in every little thing in this
world. For each person has his own importance in life.
I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depth of his eyes, my own beauty reflected. (The Lake, p.2)
And dreams are the language of God. When he speaks in our language, I can interpret what he has said. But if he speaks in the language of the soul, it is only you who can understand. (Gypsy, p.15)
To realize one’s Personal Legend is a person’s real obligation. All things are one. (Old man, p.24) The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon. (Old man, p.34)
When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. (Old man, p.42) Courage is the quality most essential to understanding the Language of the World. (Alchemist, p.113)
• • •
One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving. (Fatima, 123) Because wherever your heart is, that is where you’ll find your treasure. (Alchemist, p.130) That’s what alchemists do. They show that when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too. (Santiago, p.151)
Recurring Themes, Concepts and Ideas The concept of Dreams is shown in the novel. Santiago had an illusion of the recurrent dream of a treasure. What does this mean? We have dreams set by the Divine God himself. To pursue the dream, is within a set time range intended by God. These dreams we have will always be with us unless we ourselves do not listen to the omens or signs given by God. Our dreams must be attainable. One must hold on to his dreams. Since dreams are never-ending, they are everlasting. The concept of Journeys and Pilgrimages were shown in the novel. Santiago himself loved to go to various places. This is probable explained by our innate curiosity. Santiago wanted to roam the world and seek hidden secrets or probably unveil the places. Once in a time, we must free ourselves of our problems and take time to relax and take a journey or trip. The journey that Santiago undergoes is difficult. He is lonely at times, and he faces terrible danger, brutality and loss. However, he wants to change and grow, so
he has no choice other than to literally "follow his dream" as the book's subtitle suggests. Many situations in the book illustrate the theme of journeying. (http://litsum.com) But the most dominant theme of The Alchemist is our Destiny and Purpose in Life. Each of us has his own purpose in the world. Only God knows. Yet we must listen on what our heart tells us. The destiny of each person is written. We must be patient upon the coming of our destiny in life. Destiny does not involve only ourselves but also the value of environment and other concepts in our life. Fate is not determined by anyone. It comes when it is needed. A quote of destiny is “I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know; the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” The Purpose in life is through love. Love controls almost everything. Love is the universal language in the world. It is spoken by every individual. Hence, love encompasses everything. Events, Environments, Conditions, Milieu The setting of Africa was used in the novel where the Ancient Pyramids of Egypt lie. The setting of The Alchemist is a best description of pilgrimages of Muslims from Mecca to Medina to worship the God Allah. The environment is set in a desert – which shows loneliness, sorrows and the feeling of being alone. The nature is fully expressed in the novel during the times when Santiago talked to the wind, the sun, the heaven, and the son of God. The events are very important since each step of a meaningful journey is important. The conditions were outwardly unfavorable for Santiago. There were tribal and Moorish wars, robbers, thieves and other elements hindering the success of Santiago. The feel of the beginning was calm since it showed a peaceful church growing with sycamore. Yet during the end, the church was a symbol of peace, accomplishment and joy. War, heat and pressure are all elements that support the main theme of alchemy. Santiago could not have stayed at home in the peaceful pastures and experienced the kind of changes he is forced to confront in the desert. (www.litsum.com)
My Topics I would like to discuss the theme on the destiny, purpose of life and self-identity of the Alchemist for its simplicity and beauty. It is indeed really true that Paulo Coelho has exceeded the style of Exupery. He is the most celebrated writer not only by youth but by everybody. His themes are most centralized to his life and his personal experiences as well.
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