Monday, April 27, 2009

Book Review: The Alchemist

Genre: Literature & Fiction
Author:Paulo Coelho

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The Alchemist, written by Paulo Coelho, is an inspiring fable that is narrated by an unspecified narrator, probably Coelho himself. It is told in the third person omniscient point of view. However, it is restricted to only one point of view and does not shift narrators. In this manner, the reader knows the views of the characters and has a fuller picture of the story and its character.

The main characters in the story are as follows:

1. Santiago: the main protagonist who travels to find a hidden treasure.
2. The Alchemist: guides Santiago to fulfill his personal legend.

The minor characters are:

1. Gypsy Fortune-teller: she interprets Santiago’s dream of a hidden treasure and persuades him to find it.
2. King Melchizedek: the king of Salem who advises Santiago to accomplish his personal legend.
3. Crystal Merchant: he hires Santiago to work for him until he decides to go the oasis to find the treasure.
4. Englishman: a man in search of the true alchemist and meets Santiago in the caravan.
5. Fatima: the girl Santiago falls in love with during his journey and hopes to marry.
6. General-Chief: he captures Santiago and the Alchemist and demands Santiago to turn himself into the wind.
7. Robber at the Egyptian Pyramids: he robs Santiago and beats him. He tells Santiago the location of the treasure which he had also heard of from a dream.

The nature of the conflict in the story is personal and mainly involves Santiago and his trials. He struggles throughout his long journey to the Pyramids as he learns to pursue his personal legend and how to be one with the Soul of the World. He finds difficulty in maintaining focus on his goal as he is often discouraged by the hardships that he encounters. There is also external conflict such as the war between the two tribes in the dessert. However, along the way, he meets different people and goes through experiences that make clear to him how to listen to his soul, the world, and God. A great deal of help came from the Alchemist and he eventually finds the treasure and fulfills his personal legend.

One of the themes of the story is fate vs. choice. The king of Salem stated that the world’s greatest lie is that “at some point during our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate.” Santiago proves this when he makes his own decisions to pursue his legend and not to lose hope. The two stones, Urim and Thummim, were used only once throughout the book. This shows that fate only plays a role in our lives and does not control it. Another theme of the story is love. The books expresses that love is a part of the Soul of the World. It was demonstrated when the desert provided game for the falcon. The falcon served as meat for man and the man eventually serves as earth for the dessert. Love in humans was also showed in Santiago’s feelings for Fatima. “True love is love that allows you to reach your personal legend.”

The last theme concerns personal legends. They give reason to live and add to the Soul of the World. Santiago’s legend was to find the hidden treasure. The Alchemist’s legend was to learn the Master Work, the crystal merchant’s legend was to travel to Mecca, and the Tarifa baker’s legend was to travel the world. To fail to fulfill one’s personal legend is to live in waiting.

The beginning of the novel provides as a good introduction in the sense that it easily interests the reader. It allows the reader to get to know the main character so they become interested in his life, and therefore, in the story. It leads the reader to expect an adventurous story with plenty of interesting encounters. It hints that there will be internal conflict as well as external conflict as Coehlo uses a tone that reflects a sentimental, inspirational, and yet exciting book

At the end of the story, Santiago fulfilled his legend by discovering the hidden treasure. Also, he learned about himself and the world and eventually returned to his love, Fatima. The story is well resolved because the war also ends and Santiago’s choices paid off. It satisfactorily meets the expectations of the reader because it ends happily and Santiago is successful as well as becomes a changed and better person.

I genuinely enjoyed reading the novel because the feeling of excitement built up as I read through the chapters. I enjoyed the different twists and turns, and the ironies as well in the story. I was also entertained by the adventures and were happy with the ending.

The main lesson of the story is that we should never stop pursuing our dreams despite the different challenges that will hinder us. A dream will always remain to be a dream unless we work hard to make into reality. After reading the novel, it inspired me to do more and to achieve more to reach my dreams in becoming a successful individual.