Essay on Symbolism in The Alchemist

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The informational book “How To Read Literature Like A Professor” illustrates the specifics of reading by showing the reader the different techniques and understandings of what the literature is featuring inside it's text. One in depth idea of literature that it talks about in the book is “symbolism”.

Symbolism (as shown in the book) is a general idea/meaning that can be interpreted in different ways (not one specific meaning) as it shows us different examples of text that uses symbolism to develop it's story, such as “The Alchemist”. The Alchemist tells a story by Paulo Coelho” of a man named Santiago that has dreams of a child that explains to him that there's treasure hiding around the Egyptian Ancient Pyramids and follows through with an adventure, however, with all adventures, they all come with cost and challenges. Throughout Santiago's adventures, he's had to deal with many difficult challenges, one of the main ones would be getting to the pyramids through the scorching hot desert. As following through this adventure, Santiago meets an a Alchemist. As they continue their adventure and reach to the desert, the Alchemist says that all of it's harsh environments, that it would be good to grow Santiago's willpower, to make him more involved and entitled.

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The Desert features war, burning heat, lack of communication, and many more challenges it symbolizes the risks that Santiago has to go through to finally complete his personal legend, with the idea of growing more of a human being to getting through all of these mishaps. From the Book “How To Read Literature Like A Professor” by Thomas C. Foster states in pg.105 that, “but in general a symbol can't be reduced to standing for only one thing.” Additionally with this evidence, found in pg. 80 of “The Alchemist”states, “The Englishman asked if they were in danger. Once you're in the desert, there's no going back... this journey would have been much more difficult.” The Desert has symbolically illustrated many different interpretations, as shown, it could mean distress, determination of the Santiago, challenges that Santiago that has to go through, and much more. Of course, there's many more symbolism but desert amplifies the hardest task that they have to go through and more.

Location, setting, Geography, all things that represent where the story is taking place. Geography is brought to be very important when it comes to story development and changes to plot, they show the progress between the stories beginning and end. How did things happen the way they did and why not at different areas. This reasoning shown by the same book “How To Read Literature Like A Professor” by Thomas C. Foster as he explains the ideas of how important the geography is in a story. Now bring that same idea to the novel “The Alchemist”. Santiago was a Shepherd Boy living in Andalusia in the beginning of the story. The story continues as Santiago and the Alchemist traveling to Southern Spain and to The Egyptian Pyramids, through the blazing desert. Andalusia is a calming place for Santiago and had to go through an adventure throughout civilizations that are much different, especially when entering the Egyptian Deserts. He had to go through getting robbed many different times in different locations. Now the idea of going through a desert could be much different then hiim going through a rain forest. Different climates, civilizations, and atmosphere. The reason why this develops story is because (as stated in the Thomas C. Foster Book as shown above) it could've ended up much differently if Santiago's dream didn't tell him to go to Egypt and maybe told him to go to an Island, the story would've taken a different turn, but however, it was because of the geography that made Santiago go through all of those problematic situations, because of the different environment that he had to go through, working to get the money that was stolen from him, and to travel through a sun blazing onto his skin, being captured by Arabian Soldiers as well. To give a good example with what Thomas C. Foster was trying to explain in his book “How To Read Literature Like A Professor”, page 172 explains, “And we feel that those novels and stories couldn't be set anywhere but where they are, that those characters couldn't say the things they say if they were uprooted and planted in, say, Minnesota or Scotland. They'd say different things and perform different acts.” In Addition with Thomas C. Foster's ideal interpretation of how Geography develops story, Paulo Coelho “The Alchemist” shows an example of Thomas was stating in pg. 113, “The strange horseman drew an enormous, curved sword from a scabbard mounted on his saddle. The steel of it's blade glittered in the light of the moon. “Who dares to read the meaning of the flight of the hawks?... “It is I who dared to do so, said the boy.” The reason why Santiago did what he did in that situation was to prevent a war at the Arabian Desert so they can continue their journey to find the treasure at the pyramids. If this was somewhere else, it wouldn't have ended up doing what he did, (meaning that it could've happened much differently in a different location).

Lastly. The Book “How To Read Literature Like a Professor” describes the different uses of Irony. How it would be used in situational and problematic scenarios. Based upon Thomas C. Foster, he states an example of what Irony could be in a text (pg.254) “ Frederic Henry, having just experienced the death of his lover, Catherine Barkley, and her baby during childbirth, distraught, walks out into the rain.” Meaning that, we wouldn't associate as a newborn child being brought to this world with be associated with rain. The same idea can be brought with the scene when Santiago was getting robbed and beaten up by the thieves at the desert, and being told by the leader that he had the same dreams but that he wasn't stupid enough to actually go through with it, especially at a desert which is a very hard place to venture off to. “I had a recurrent dream, too. In my dream there was a sycamore growing out of the ruins of the sacristy and I was told that, if I dug at the roots of the sycamore, I would find a hidden treasure. But I'm not so stupid as to cross an entire desert just because of a recurrent dream” (“The Alchemist” pg. 163). The idea is that, the thief, that is completely different from Santiago, had the same dream of finding treasure. That's the irony, their views and actions on earth is so different yet, they had the same task. However, the leader believes that Santiago is stupid for doing it, which is the other way around when really thought of. Irony was used in “The Alchemist” to show the differences between Santiago and the world. Besides that, Santiago went through all of his journey and made it to the area where his dream illustrated the treasure.. ironically.. it was all at where he was in the beginning. It was under the tree the whole time.

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Essay on Symbolism in The Alchemist. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 24, 2024, from
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