The Alchemist is a fiction novel written by a Brazilian author, Paulo Coelho. This novel is based around the story of a shepherd boy who dreams about a treasure and sets on a journey to find it. The book’s main idea is to find one’s destiny. This is fantasy book and involves supernatural incidents. The protagonist is out on an adventure in his quest to find the treasure he dreamt of.
The main plot of the alchemist takes place in the Spanish pastures, the Spanish town of Tariff, the city of Tangier in North Africa, and the Sahara desert.
About the author
Paulo Coelho was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Paulo Coelho always dreamt of becoming a writer. Coelho was opposed by his family; his parents used to think of the world rationally and were realist while Coelho was an optimist. He studied law on the wish of his parents, but dropped out after a year. He travelled from place to place and worked as an actor, journalist and theatre director before he could pursue a writing career.
Paulo Coelho published his first book “Hell Archives” in 1982. Next in 1986 he wrote a book but then dropped it off. Later in 1987 he published “The Pilgrimage” after making a pilgrimage to Santiago-de-Compostela, and the following year he published “The Alchemist”, his international bestseller.
The novel is story of a boy named Santiago who is confronted by a dream that there is a treasured near some pyramids. Santiago, who is a shepherd and thus a traveler, had never seen the pyramids before, and the recursive appearance of this dream, decides to set on a journey to find the treasure. The writer has described a very interesting plot on how he sets out on this journey, the motivation behind his adventure to come. During the plot writer has focused on the narration of ancillary characters but always returned back to Santiago’s story. Although the author made use of too much spiritual terms and happenings, the way he described them, no confusion was left behind and the plot became clearer with time. The details that the author has produced for each part of the journey, detailed description of surroundings and settings helps one create a perfect imagination of how all those places must have looked like. As you read it, you will dive into the story. You would start believing that you yourself are the main protagonist, going through all the adventures and moving onwards to a quest that is your own.
The writer has greatly maintained the plot of the story. Although he has added supernatural activities, he fits them with the story so well that they feel like a part of the story, but more than that like real life.
Throughout the story, the writer has talked about the things that we usually do not pay much attention to. These are the personal quest, the awareness of omens, the soul of the world, and the idea of listening to one’s heart as a guide. He has described the story around these particular ideas. The writer leaves a great influence of what he wants to describe on his readers.
The main idea that the writer has highlighted throughout the plot is destiny and the universal language. Destiny is a pre determined course of events, plays a large role in the novel. It is the driving force that guides Santiago on his journey. The writer stated, “When you want something, the entire universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” One must follow through his destiny and never give up; is the point that the writer focuses on and explains it in the novel. Next is the universal language and soul of the world. The writer says that all the elements in the universe are connected by some means and that is the soul of the world. The writer states that all the elements share the same common soul and it is our heart that connects our soul to the soul of the world. In the statement “Wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” By the story point of view; the writer is talking about Santiago’s treasure; but in literary context; the writer is referring to destiny. Wherever the will of your heart lies, is where you will find your destiny.
The other things that the writer has focused on are omens and personal legend and nature. Omens as the writer has stated are the signs through which the universe guides you towards your treasure or destiny. Throughout our life, we see different omens (signs by the universe), motivating and guiding us to our destiny. Moving through omens, the writer slightly moves towards nature. Coelho slowly develops the concept that nature and man. Man can communicate with nature through the universal language of soul. The writer has described natural scenery throughout the story, the deserts, the types of wind, the grass, the oasis and so on.
The overall story plot did not seem confusing and was clear although due to too much talk about the soul of the world and use of deep solitary language and spirituality, it becomes confusing, especially to those who don’t care about things like solitary and dreams. The writer has planned the whole story on the basis of a single dream which occurs in recursion. In my personal opinion the plot was not much confusing but in a general and critic opinion, there was overuse of symbolic words and supernatural happenings and spirituality which become confusing at points.
The book itself is a nice piece of literature and deserves to be on the international bestseller list. The story was touching at some parts, and the way it was told, was attractive and attention gathering. I liked the character of the crystal merchant. He lived his whole life wishing that someday he will be able to get to Makkah for the pilgrimage which is a must on every Muslim who is capable of going on a pilgrimage. The merchant was a positive character, as helped Santiago get a job in nick time when Santiago was in need of it. Secondly he also had a deep and great understanding of omens and a little about the soul of the world and the needs of the heart. He was one of the greatest sources of Santiago’s motivation towards his destiny and provided him with his full support. He appeared at the plot twist where Santiago was planning on cancelling his journey and returning to his old life as a shepherd. I liked his quote that “I am not going to Makkah and you are not going back to being a shepherd” where he explained how one’s heart needed to keep following his destiny in order to be in peace and live happily.
The characters of the story all seemed real except for the alchemist and the King. They both seemed to be the same person as their talks and the way they both appeared in the story resembled. So it can be said that the character of the alchemist was not described apart from the King but in resemblance to the King. The rest of the characters all seemed real and were well defined. The story had a great impact on me and it kept revolving around my mind during the time I was reading it.
My favorite part of the book was when Santiago decides to move onwards to his journey towards his destiny rather than living his life as a shepherd. After working one year at the crystal merchant’s shop he finally decides that he is going to go and discover his treasure waiting for him near the pyramids. And then in the end, he finally gets there gets his treasure, and realizes that his real treasure or his destiny was not to find the buried treasure but to get closer to the soul of the world and find true love for himself. I liked this part the most as it shows how one should just not give up on his goals after going through some small losses. And that one should look beyond what they see. One should look at the things, which mostly goes by unnoticed but are the guiding stars towards their destiny. Our destiny is not always what it seems to us; sometimes we are just so concerned with things happening around and forget what’s important to live in true peace.
The story was a type of tragedy and adventure but with a happy ending. It was so grabbing that once I started reading it, I couldn’t hold myself from reading further.
I would sum up by saying that The Alchemist is a fine piece of literature and spirituality. It is worth reading, especially for those who are optimistic in nature. Although the story could turn confusing at times but on reading it for the second time, all the confusion is cleared. This novel is worth reading.