Reflective Essay on the Alchemist
The Alchemist Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian who is perhaps one of the most read and influential of our times. He started his writing career with Hell Archives and has written books that are based mostly on his own experience with the search for spirituality. His notable books include The Pilgrimage (1986), The Alchemist (1987), Brida (1990), The Valkyries (1992), By the river Piedra I sat Down and Wept (1994), Veronika decides to die (1998), The Devil and Miss Prym (2000), The Zahir (2005), The Witch of Portobello (2006). Coelho has been facilitated by numerous International literary honors and is also an Ambassador of European Union for Intercultural Dialogue for the year of 2008. The Alchemist is his most acknowledged work and it holds the honor of being the most translated book – being translated in 67 languages. (Coelho,
The Alchemist has been held as a highly inspirational book as it tells the story of fulfilling personal legend – a term that Coelho uses to describe ones’ purpose in life. According to Coelho, a personal legend is the rationale for the person to exist; it is what he needs to fulfill to participate fully in this cosmos of life. (Coelho, . The Alchemist coveys the significance of personal legend in a very simplistic manner, using the story of an Andalusian shepherd, Santiago. Throughout The Alchemist, Coelho has shown how life always presents us with a chance to decide our future course of action. We can pursue the one course that takes us to the realization of our dreams, or we can choose to be complacent in our present comfort zone and continue to dreg out a half-fulfilled life. An additional theme is that even if we are not sure or confident of realizing our dreams, we must keep our hearts open to signs and listen to other’s wisdom. Sometimes, our instincts guide us to the correct path, and we should take it.
The life of Santiago is filled with similar instance where he was forced to make similar decisions. Santiago, like other young people of his region is brought up to desire for traditionally acceptable achievements of life – marriage to a beautiful girl and a respectable job. However, Santiago hears his inner voice that urges him to travel and to see the world. Similarly, when Santiago had his dream about a buried treasure in Egypt, he was already on his way to woo his dream girl. But he meets a gypsy woman on an impulse, and later meets Melchizedek, the king of Salem, and decides to pursue his dream. (Coelho, 1993).
Once Santiago embarks on his quest, he faces numerous obstacles. Arriving in Tangier, he is robbed of all his money and forced to work for a crystal glass shop. Here, Santiago does not get despondent but spends his time working diligently and saving for his money for a year. When Santiago resumes his travel and arrives at the Oasis, he feels contentment as he falls in love with Fatima. (Coelho, 1993). At times, Santiago even assumes that he can forget his dream and should feel satisfied with whatever he had at the moment. But, again on meeting the Alchemist he realizes that his purpose in life is to fulfill his dream of finding the treasure. Together with the Alchemist, Santiago leaves the Oasis to pursue his quest.
On reaching the pyramids, Santiago is ambushed and robbed – but even in that instance realizes that his quest has not been in vain as one of the robbers gives him the cue to the exact location of the treasure. (Coelho, 1993). The robber had also had a dream about the treasure and could have pursued it, but he chose to stay and continue robbing others.
He was given a chance to change his destiny like Santiago, but he didn’t take it. This is the highlight of the story – the fact that you can, in all practicality, decide the way you want to lead your life. The point that Coelho drives home with The Alchemist is that once you have a dream, and you want to follow it with your heart, then circumstances will adapt themselves to help you. Obstacles will come only to hone your instincts and abilities, and you must accept them as stepping stones to success. Through Santiago, Coelho shows a path to the reader to follow his own dream and fulfill his personal legend.
1. Coelho, P. 2008. Biography. Retrieved on 16 December 2008. from/; http://www.paulocoelho.com.br/engl/dow/Bio.pdfwebsite
2. Coelho, P. 1993. The Alchemist. Australia: HarperCollins.