Essay on Metaphor in 'The Alchemist'

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Paulo Coelho’s works are characterized by their simplicity, wistfulness, and clear-cut yet deeply poignant delivery. Despite variations in how the stories are narrated, all of his novels carry a familiar philosophical feel to them. He is also a masterful storyteller. Even through the characters’ conversations, there seems to be an insightful lesson being conveyed with direct, honest dialogue, and concise points.

Anyone who has read Coelho’s work would also agree that there is a certain conversational feel coming from the dialogue; each narrative almost reminds the reader of a legend recounted around a campfire, or an old folk tale that no one knows when, nor where it started. Turning the pages of his novels, repetition of sentence structure is favored, usually describing the characters and their actions. But his simplicity truly shines through in the way he depicts a story’s settings; descriptive or flowery language is usually scant, instead, the theme of the novel is more prominent and never lost in abundant elaborations on the details. This adds all the more power to the rare instances where attention to detail carries and caters to the plot of the story. However, his sometimes blunt style of writing can turn certain people away, as shown by the criticism of his works. Yet ones who appreciate the honesty and concision find it not harsh, but rather contributes to the intensity of what is being conveyed. Nevertheless, some readers find Coelho's tendency to describe spiritual concepts in simple terms “cliché”.

The New York Times once described his novels as “more self-help than literature ”. Needless to say, reactions to his writing have not been without controversy. But with millions of copies sold and novels translated in over 170 countries, Coelho’s writing must strongly resonate with a large number of people.

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On the occasion of The Alchemist’s 25th anniversary, Paulo Coelho opened up about his inspiration for the breakout bestseller on his website. The author admitted that his lifelong aspiration was to become a writer, though only at 40 did he write his first book, The Pilgrimage (1987). His confusion as to why it took him so long to fulfill his dream led to a two-week spurt of creativity, and thus, The Alchemist was born. He explained that he was able to write at that pace because the story was “already written in his soul ”. The book is said to be a metaphor for this portion of his life, with the protagonist, Santiago, set up to fulfill his dream, but takes so long because he thinks it is impossible. Reading the novel, it is apparent that Santiago’s journey is incredibly personal, yet immensely universal.

Throughout the story, the advice that the wise king had given Santiago seems to be its core philosophy: “When you want something to happen, the whole universe will conspire so that your wish comes true ”. Paulo Coelho firmly believes in that statement, as shown in various interviews he has done over the years. Other connections between this runaway bestseller and the author’s life story are also quite clear. Santiago was a comfortable shepherd who abandoned a peaceful life to pursue his calling, and Coelho was doing well for himself as a songwriter when he decided to give up everything to pursue his dream of writing. Just like how Santiago’s journey to the pyramids was full of setbacks and irresistible temptations, Coelho endured several obstacles, including the disappointingly poor reception of his passion project The Pilgrimage, and the early failure of The Alchemist, as well as the temptation stemming from his financial success as a songwriter. Yet, like Santiago, Coelho kept his eyes on the prize and eventually achieved literary success that exceeded his expectations.

Regarding the criticism of his writings, Coelho stated: “I am not a self-help writer. I am a self-problem writer. When I write a book I write a book for myself; the reaction is up to the reader, it's not my business whether people like or dislike it. ”

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Essay on Metaphor in ‘The Alchemist’. (2024, February 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 25, 2024, from
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