Ralph Waldo Emerson once declared that “Life is a journey, not a destination”. This recurring idea can be found throughout numerous works of literature. These pieces are conveying the message that one should focus on what they gain from their experiences, rather than living for the goal. In The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, the author presents a comparable idea through the use of Personal Legends and a treasure that one can find at the destination of their journey. The most significant theme found in Coelho’s novel is that when pursuing one’s dream, the journey is more meaningful than the prize.
During his journey, Santiago observes two stall owners communicating though they speak different languages, and he learns that “there must be a language that doesn’t depend on words” and thinks “If I can learn to understand the language … I can learn to understand the world” (Coelho 46). One influential lesson that Santiago gradually discovers is that people can communicate without words, through the language of the world, as done by the stall owners. Through this experience, Santiago attains precious knowledge that will stay with him for his entire life and this is more important than a material treasure. Later in Santiago’s travels, the alchemist also understands the value of one’s journey and attempts to share this with Santiago by stating that “They were seeking the treasure of their Personal Legend, without wanting actually to live out the Personal Legend” (Coelho 129). Throughout their journey, the alchemist teaches Santiago essential lessons and when he does not recognize their purpose, the alchemist hopes to explain by saying that one will not realize their Personal Legend without the events along the way.
Until now, Santiago was not able to understand the importance of his journey, but he does realize its significance in the latter half of the novel. Santiago is speaking to the sun when he states that alchemy exists “So that everyone will search for his treasure … and then want to be better than he was in his former life” (Coelho 155). Santiago knows that alchemy is an analogy for the idea that one must become a better person on his journey and that the prize at the end is not the ultimate goal. In addition, just before Santiago arrives at the Pyramids, he speculates that “on the way toward realizing his own Personal Legend, he had learned all he needed to know” (Coelho 165). Santiago reflects on his journey and discovers that he would be content to return home without the treasure at the Pyramids because the information he has acquired along the way is adequate as a treasure.
All in all, the overarching theme found in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is that when one is hoping to fulfill their dreams, their experiences during their journey are more powerful than the rewards. Coelho’s purpose in writing this novel was to demonstrate the value of the events and the mentors that one meets in his travels. During his trip, there are multiple instances in which Santiago learns valuable lessons through his encounters with certain situations and people. Similar to Emerson’s statement, Coelho uses Santiago’s travels to illustrate that one’s life and dreams should not be about the destination, but the journey has taken along the way.
- Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist. 25th Anniversary Edition, HarperCollins Publishers, 1993.
- Emerson, Ralph Waldo.