The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho’s novel, The Alchemist, was originally released in 1988. It is an inspiring story that portrays a shepherd learning about the importance of following his dreams and striving for happiness while he is travelling towards the pyramids of Egypt. A prevalent topic within this book is the whole notion of following your heart’s desires or as the book refers to it as, “your personal legend”. From the start of the book to the very last page, Coelho does an astounding job of reminding us that as long as you work hard to continue following things that interest you, the world will be by your side.
The book follows a brave shepherd named Santiago that has the reoccuring dream of finding treasure within the pyramids of Egypt. After meeting with a gypsy and a king who encourages the idea of him travelling to the desert to find this treasure, or “personal legend” Santiago gears up and gets ready for an adventure. However, Santiago must first leave his life of being a shepherd behind if he wants to continue on this quest. Paulo succeeds in emphasizing the importance of gaining knowledge from the experiences you have on your way to achieving your personal legend, and how these experiences should not scare you but should shape you. This can be seen when Santiago chooses to entrust his money to a stranger at a bar, only to realize that he has been robbed. After this tragic event, Santiago mourns over giving up his sheep and his life because he remembers how safe and reliable that lifestyle was. He then comes to the realization that he has to stop thinking of himself as the victim of this cruel act, but to instead perceive himself as an adventurer on the quest for his treasure.
As I mentioned earlier, a significant part of the story is the role of Santiago’s dreams. The visions that would occur as he slept were the beginning of the shepherd’s curiosity about travelling to the desert in search for a treasure. A similar scenario can be found in Rick Riordan’s famous series Percy Jackson and The Olympians. This series explores the adventures of greek gods and more importantly demigods, one of which named Percy Jackson. Percy experienced dreams that foreshadowed the problems or adventures that would arise in the future. I think dreams contribute to these books both metaphorically and literally. You always hear the phrase, “follow your dreams,” but in these novels you can see the characters actually pursuing the visions they experience at night.
The Alchemist also explores the notion of love and the role it should play in your life. You can see that Santiago has two types of love and he has to figure out how to manage the roles it should play in his life. On one hand, the shepherd meets Fatima who he falls completely in love with and who plays an important role in his happiness. On the other hand, Santiago is dealing with another love in his life which is following and pursuing his personal legend. As we continue on in the book, Santiago realizes that these two loves should be supportive of each other and that if these are the things that are truly meant to be in his life, everything will work out in the end. I think including this within his novel was a clever move for Coehlo because this is a pretty prevalent problem within relationships and was a smart way to inspire his crowd.
Altogether, The Alchemist was a fantastic, inspiring read that can teach you about life and, most importantly, the journey of making your dreams a reality. Exploring relationships, hard work and staying motivated, the novel is great for older teens that may be thinking about the future and second-guessing what path they want to follow later on in life. With the way Coelho motivates and inspires us to pursue our goals throughout the book, The Alchemist is great book that I highly-recommend.