Essay about Omens in 'The Alchemist'

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Symbolism, geography, and irony are brought up many times by Coelho throughout the book. In the book “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, different types of literary devices are brought up, the book is spoken in 3rd person by a boy named Santiago and his Personal Legend. This story begins when they had the same dream over time, he met the Gypsy fortune teller in the nearby town about what its meaning was. The woman interprets the dream as a prophecy telling the boy that he will discover a treasure at the Egyptian pyramids. This led him to meet with an old man who called himself the king of Salem, he told him about pursuing his legend. In The Alchemist, it is about pursuing your dreams by following what your heart desires. During the journey, Santiago learns to listen to his heart and to follow the language of omens, and each obstacle he faces will be a lesson he’ll learn. The author used symbolism, geography, and irony to carry out the story and its meaning.

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In the book “How to read literature like a Professor” by Thomas C. Foster, the topic from Chapter 11: Is that a symbol? are related to the novel The Alchemist. Symbolism doesn’t have one meaning to it but remains open to multiple possible interpretations. Almost all symbols have more than one meaning to them based on the situation the characters are in. In the novel, symbolism is used throughout, Santiago’s sheep is one of the symbols. In the beginning, Santiago is introduced as a shepherd, even though he went on traveling, he kept referring back to being a shepherd. When the king of Salem appears in front of Santiago in the guise of a poor old man, he asks for the boy’s sheep in exchange for the information he’s going to tell him. Therefore the sheep, in a way, symbolize the values of humility, simplicity, and self-actualization. By asking to give up his sleep he was able to realize what he wanted to do which drove him to pursue that goal. In the novel The Alchemist, it states, “ If you want to learn about your treasure, you will have to give me one-tenth of your flock….There was nothing to hold him back except himself. The sheep, the merchant’s daughter, and the fields of Andalusia were only. Steps along the way to his legend” (Coelho 27-31). This evidence explains that by asking to give away his sleep, he realized why he had wanted to be a shepherd in the first place. Therefore the sheep not only symbolizes an animal but also what he realized, not only that, by being with the sheep and all the life lessons he learned by being with them, he was able to put them to use later. So the sheep also symbolize the potential of learning through observation, as well as the importance of observing even the seemingly unimportant aspects of life. The Urim and Thummim stone was also used as a symbol in The Alchemist. The Urim and Thummim are not only stones but something that read the omens. The stones are black and white, with their colors representing yes and no answers to questions, which shows how somewhat they symbolize objective knowledge. In the novel, Santiago is given two stones to help him make decisions when he needs, but he later never uses the stone. In the novel, it states, “He didn’t consider mending the hole—the stones could fall through any time they wanted. He had learned that there were certain things one shouldn't ask about, so as not to flee from one's destiny. ‘I promised that I would make my own decisions,’ he said to himself”(Coelho 44). As you can tell, he had given up using the stones to answer questions, but he did use them in the being which symbolizes his need to respond to omens. The stones also kind of symbolize how he’s willing to make his own decisions and give up relying on the stone. There are many other symbolisms as well, like how the water symbolizes life, and how the desert symbolizes the obstacles and hardships that stand between people and their dreams.

In the book “How to Read Literature Like a Professor” by Thomas C. Foster, the topic from Chapter 13: Geography matters, is related to the novel The Alchemist. The geography and location of where the setting takes place are significant to the whole story. Geography has the power to create peculiar atmospheres and also shape a character. Often, geography is the external landscape of a literary work that reflects the internal mind of the characters or what they are going through. Where the character is located or going could tell us about the character as a person, so different areas and locations could be symbols of different things. The Alchemist is set in the pastures of Spain, and the Sahara desert. Santiago had gone to the desert in search of his legend, and he was also told that he’d find the treasure that would make him rich in the pyramid. This setting is where he’s going to face most of his troubles and obstacles. In the novel it states, “He got up to pay. The bill, but the owner grabbed him and began to speak to him in an angry stream of words...His new friend pushed the owner aside, and pulled the boy outside with him. ‘he wanted your money”(Coelho 30). Santiago had met many obstacles on his way, and one of them was in Tangier, not only had he met a man who wanted his money, but the friend he had just had also ran away with his money, leaving him with nothing.

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