The Alchemist' and 'Siddhartha' Comparative Essay

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Thesis Statement:

This paper talks about the striking similarities between two novels, ‘The Alchemist’, by Paulo Coehlo, and ‘Siddhartha’, by Hermann Hesse from the point of significance of love and wealth on human fulfillment. The texts can be compared considering the presence of resembling characters and themes.

About the Authors and their Background:

Hermann Hesse and Paulo Coehlo are the authors of ‘Siddhartha’ and ‘The Alchemist’ respectively, both of which are among the most successful novels in their careers. Both authors struggled to cope with their parent’s contradictory outlook on their lives in their early teenage years. For a set of reasons that are distinct from one another, Hesse and Coehlo spent a part of their lives in institutions meant to help individuals and “reinvent” them from within. They spent a month in this compulsory prison but once they got out, they pursued their goals succeeded in their aspirations, and proved to the world that their perseverance and individuality were more than a product of their teen angst. Even though their childhoods were polluted by parental controls, their persistence helped them succeed in life, and this is in itself a great example of how genuine the existence of destiny and the continuous opportunity to achieve greatness. Both Hesse and Coehlo were inspired by their journeys and with the wisdom they gained from the same, they came up with Siddhartha and The Alchemist. Both of the writers convey the importance of sacrificing love and materialistic pleasures to attain fulfillment.

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Protagonist’s Love Interests:

Kamala and Fatima are characterized as the greatest loves of the Protagonists of Siddhartha and The Alchemist respectively. They are symbolic of a person’s temptation to settle for love instead of pursuing their fated desires. Santiago and Siddhartha both resist this temptation and depict the great human strength that is designed to benefit individuals. Siddhartha met Kamala in a residential town after quitting his practice as a Samana while living through nature. The comfort that Siddhartha found in the captivating love tended to weaken him and for several years, Siddhartha chose to succumb to the lure of the riches and superior social status. Similarly, Santiago too got distracted in his journey after meeting Fatima and was mesmerized by her beauty and grace. He was ready to settle in a small Oasis with Fatima in the Sahara. He started to consider her greater than the treasure that he was looking for. In both cases, the deviation from individual goals due to a change in heart is a depiction of the consuming nature of unconditional love and how efficient it is in altering the mindsets of even the most determined individuals.

Deeply motivated and Goal oriented Protagonists:

From the beginning, Hesse and Coehlo portray both Santiago and Siddhartha as highly ambitious and deeply motivated to enhance their lives. The characters’ temporary surrendering of their ambitions for love unveils an irrepressible aspect of life, one in which dreams and visions may be clouded, unclear, and deemed unimportant. However, the writers create protagonists that eventually continue their journeys thus proving their ultimate strength. After years of living a gluttonous lifestyle, Siddhartha realizes his mistake of conforming to society, Referring to his gluttonous and excessive life as a game, Siddhartha makes a mockery out of the human condition and human fascination with propriety, possessions, and according to Hesse, love as well. Likewise, Coelho suggests these temptations act as distractions that interfere with fate. Finally, Hesse and Coelho imply that love plays the central obstacle standing between one’s desires; having possession of the ability to resist love’s temptations demonstrates a beneficial strength proven by the protagonists to be beneficial to the individual.

Captivating Qualities of Wealth and Social Status and looking beyond that:

Both Hesse and Coelho discuss the attractive and captivating qualities of wealth and social status clubbed with acceptance through the occurrences in the stories of each protagonist, highlighting that one must reject the intense attraction of riches, materialistic pleasures, and reputation to attain one’s highest potential. Like love, wealth, and social status can divert one’s motive in life, however, obtaining such titles and riches usually becomes more of an obsession rather than an emotional desire. Siddhartha lost himself in the years he lived within an organized society. Hesse illustrates the detrimental consequences of devoting one’s life to becoming wealthy and accepted by people which includes great loss of time. Again ridiculing human attachment with such material pleasures, Hesse describes living under the validations of society as “living without belonging” indicating a distancing from “one’s Self” and the good intentions of the fated life. In The Alchemist, Santiago initially ignored his dream to travel to Egypt and find his treasure because a thief robbed him of his possessions. Now intent on earning back the lost money, Santiago became an employee at a crystal shop. Instead of saving his hard-earned money for a trip across the Sahara desert, he wished to uphold his pride and respect and return to Spain once again a mere shepherd. Hesse and Coelho presented both Siddhartha and Santiago with enticing opportunities to permanently settle down and live among materialistic people with enormous wealth. Siddhartha realizes how he lacked significance in his life. Identifying the illegitimacy of a lifetime tainted by gluttony, Siddhartha and Santiago continue their journeys requiring very strong resistance to the influential pull of society.

Journey to Completion to attain wisdom for a fulfilled life:

Though Hesse and Coelho both deem sacrificing common pleasures very important for genuine success–following fate, Coelho recommends returning to love and wealth, highlighting how only temporary sacrifice is necessary to achieve Personal Legend. Moreover, Coelho suggests that afterward, the universe rewards the individual with common human yearnings. For Siddhartha, abandoning his life among society and wealth allowed him to continue his path and befriend an old Ferryman whose lifestyle along the River was eventually adopted by Siddhartha. Living a simple life, Siddhartha learned more from the Ferryman and the River than the Samanas, Kamala, or economic success ever could have made him learn. His permanent residence with the Ferryman marked Siddhartha’s final step in finding himself and his purpose. Siddhartha attained enlightenment and accomplished his ultimate goal by utilizing the tools provided by both the wise Ferryman and the all-seeing River. Santiago, too, achieved his Legend by locating his treasure and decoding the Language of the World after following the advice of his mentor, the Alchemist, and leaving Fatima. As a result, both authors believe it is critical to continue the journey to completion to obtain the wisdom needed to live a completely fulfilled life.

Difference: Life after attainment of goals

In contrast, Hesse and Coelho have opposing perspectives on life after achieving one's ultimate goals. Siddhartha, a novel imbued with Buddhist principles and ideologies, by Herman Hesse, suggests that the presence of true happiness and enlightenment stems from solitude and isolation from materialistic society. Not only does Hesse imply that contentment arises solely from the individual, but that all other aspects of life, including love, serve as stepping stones on the path to enlightenment. Siddhartha ponders the nature of their relationship on his final day with Kamala. Siddhartha dehumanizes Kamala, portraying her as valuable but disposable knowledge. In this way, Hesse challenges commonly held beliefs about true love, arguing that the purpose of life is more selfish than others may believe. Coelho, on the other hand, believes that love and possessions are essential, implying that humans rely on both the external world and the internal 'self.' Coelho compares love to natural occurrences of the world, implying the magnitude it possesses in life, using a metaphor of nature to explain the immense presence of love. Furthermore, unlike Hesse, Coelho does not condemn wealth in society. Coelho, on the other hand, accepts and interprets these pleasures as a reward for the individual's vital sacrifices made while fulfilling their destiny.

Selflessness and Sacrifice

Hesse and Coelho both emphasize the importance of embracing selfishness throughout one's life. Realizing and achieving personally authentic goals becomes nearly impossible in the absence of some self-interest. Furthermore, the authors contend that only those endowed with strength and wisdom will recognize the value of sacrifice and achieve their full potential. Both Hesse and Coelho illustrate this idea through the lives of their protagonists, who represent the rarity of a person strong enough to resist the allure of wealth, love, and comfort. Unfortunately, life's powerful distractions can postpone, if not completely prevent, true fate, leading to resentment and pure sadness later on. Hesse and Coelho, both having realized their dreams, show how having faith in one's destiny is more rewarding than all other aspects of human existence.

Conclusion:

To conclude, evident similarities can be drawn between the books “The Alchemist” and “Siddhartha”. Even though they differ on certain grounds, the fact that they resemble the theme and plot development supersedes the difference in terms of how the plot is taken forward. The protagonists of both the stories had to overcome the worldly trap of temptations of love and materialistic pleasures which is a testimony of their resemblances. Also, the fact that the authors shared a similar early life creates a big impact and resemblances can easily be seen in their writings.

Works Cited

Primary Sources:

    • Hesse, Hermann, and Hilda Rosner. Siddhartha. Bantam Books, 1971
    • Coehlo, Paulo, The Alchemist. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco,1998.

Secondary Sources:

    • Wasala, Rohan, “Comparison between Siddhartha and Alchemist”, 2018 https:www.academia.edu9512681Comparative_Essay_Siddhartha_and_The_Alchemist
    • Gleba, Shannon. “Siddhartha and The Alchemist” Provide Relatable Self Discovery Journeys”, 2007 https: McQuaid.org20180322siddhartha-and-the-alchemist-provide-relatable-self-discovery-journeys
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The Alchemist’ and ‘Siddhartha’ Comparative Essay. (2024, February 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 24, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-alchemist-and-siddhartha-comparative-essay/
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