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Themes Of Fear And Treasure In The Alchemist

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In life some things come and go, whether it be people or even emotions, not everything is permanent. In The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, the main character Santiago, who is portrayed as a courageous boy sets out from his home country to the Egyptian deserts with the goal of finding his treasure. However, along the way he encounters several bumps in the road, but with an optimistic attitude he looks at it with nothing but positivity and takes them in as both blessings and lessons. It is important for one to achieve their dreams, to live happily regardless of the obstacles that may appear in the process. Throughout the novel, Santiago acknowledges the key to fulfill his dream life is to overcome his fears, listen to omens, and use his life hurdles as nothing but blessings to attain his ultimate life.

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Fears are often what discourages an individual from doing what they really want to, though defeating this feeling may not come easy, the reward that follows is like no other. Being able to rid oneself of fear allows them to open up to trying bigger and better things in life. In The Alchemist Santiago is seen conflicted with his fear of loss and his fear of putting others in harm's way. After hearing about the treasure he is destined to find, he is not too keen on letting go of his sheep as he finds himself to be in a comfortable and stable position. He then immediately begins to speak of how he is the only one who knows his sheep as well as himself, and is the only one qualified to take care of them, “ to shear sheep, how to care for pregnant ewes, and how to protect the sheep from wolves,” (Coelho 28). Santiago fears to be separated from his sheep as he grew a deep attachment and connection to them over time, and believes he is the only one capable of truly caring for them. Eventually, Santiago acknowledges it is time to let go of his sheep and make it his goal to pursue his personal legend rather than only thinking about the negatives and losses along the way. In addition, Santiago combats with his fear of failure. While travelling with the alchemist, he explains that a person’s heart becomes fearful “of moments that could have been good but weren’t, or of treasures that might have been found but were forever hidden in the sands,” (Coelho 134). Santiago tells the alchemist that his “heart is afraid it will have to suffer” (Coelho 134). He fears that he may not find the treasure and will not fulfill his personal legend. Although, the alchemist's words put him at ease as he tells him that ”the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself” (Coelho 134). From this he comes back into the realization that he should not let his fear of failure overwhelm and distract him from his goals, and should instead focus on the positive aspects of his journey and allow any lessons along the way to help shape who he is and his future for the better. Whether or not he finds the treasure he should appreciate the journey for the lessons rather than the satisfaction of the prize. The third piece of proof is when Santiago is kidnapped by a body of tribesmen, they notice that he is a foreigner, and he begins to fear that his life may be at risk. However, the alchemist gives the men all the boy’s money to protect the two and tells them that the boy is an alchemist and can turn himself into the wind, despite the fact that Santiago cannot. This lie then has the head of the tribesmen demand to see it, giving Santiago only three days to do so and if he fails to succeed both himself and the alchemist will have no choice but to surrender their lives to the men. At this part of the novel it states “The boy was shaking with fear…” and Santiago grows furious with the alchemist and says “You gave them everything I had!” “Everything I’ve saved in my entire life!” (Coelho 145). He is caught by surprise and panics knowing he needs to learn something that he knows nothing of. Even though he has never done anything like this and is frightened by the idea of being forced to stay with the tribesmen, he learns how to become the wind and scares off the men allowing him and the alchemist to continue on with his journey.

Omens are an event regarded as a portent of good or evil. Throughout the novel, Santiago is seen encountering a number of different omens on the way to allocate his treasure. Despite the number of omens that are present, they all help play an important role in shaping Santiago’s thoughts, behaviour, and future. He slowly learns to recognize and use these omens to help him make decisions, no matter the potential outcomes. When Santiago has his first encounter with King Melchezidek, he notices a butterfly that flutters in between the both of them. With this he suddenly remembers his grandfather had once mentioned, “that butterflies were a good omen” (Coelho 32). This omen is significant to the novel as this is when he interprets the sighting of the gentle insect as a sign he should set foot on his journey to follow and fulfill his personal legend. Next, the king hands Santiago two stones named Urim and Thummim, and says “they can help you read the omens,” (Coelho 43). These stones signify “yes” and “no”, and lead up to his next omen. Santiago still puzzled with whether or not he still has the old man’s blessing, asks the stones and pulls out the stone that signifies “yes”. With this he confidently questions the stones, “Am I going to find my treasure?” (Coelho 44), however he is left unanswered when both the stones fall out of the pouch leaving him with no direct answer. The falling of the stones proves to him that not everything can be answered with simple one word answers, but rather experienced. Though the old king advises him to, “Learn to recognize omens, and follow them,” (Coelho 44), and soon with the kings reassuring words Santiago realizes he must instead make his own decisions rather than relying on the stones to do so for him. The final main omen Santiago encounters is his deep affection for Fatima. He allows himself to become completely vulnerable and is willing to put an end to his search for the treasure to fulfill his need for love.

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