The Alchemist

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In Pursuit of God’s Calling
A Book Review of “The Alchemist”
Dannica Mherl W. Ipo, BSCHE 1-1
July 31, 2012

Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist is the story of Santiago, a shepherd boy who dreams of traveling the world and discovering treasures, and is courageous enough to walk in the direction of his desires. With this symbolic masterpiece, Coelho states that we should not avoid our destinies, and urges people to follow their dreams, because to find our Personal Legend and our mission on Earth is the way to find God, meaning happiness, fulfillment, and the ultimate purpose of creation.

The title itself gives us an idea about the story. The alchemist is a person with rare, mysterious knowledge, who knows how to speed up that natural process and use special tools to create gold from lead. However, in the story, the author is actually referring as to how Santiago transformed his life. He was just a shepherd but his life changed when he chose to follow his Personal Legend. He found his treasure and succeeded in achieving his ultimate dream. Just like Alchemy, his life turned from being just a lead into a precious gold.

In order to realize the best that his destiny has to offer, he travels from his home in Spain, through the markets of Tangiers, and into the great Egyptian desert. The settings in this book are so vividly described that the reader can feel the lush, cool grasses of the Andalusian fields. When he decides to go, his father's only advice as stated on page 9 of the book is "Travel the world until you see that our castle is the greatest, and our women the most beautiful." In his journey, Santiago sees the greatness of the world. He experiences love, loses and makes money, learns a different language, meets different people, gets dupes, finds himself in pleasant and not-so-pleasant situations. His journey is full of adventure and lessons, while he also finds the chance of meeting a king, a desert woman and an alchemist, each adding to his life new turns and perceptions. However, by the end of the novel, he discovers that the treasure lies where your heart belongs, and that the treasure was the journey itself, the discoveries he made, and the wisdom he acquired.

"The Alchemist", is an exciting novel that bursts with optimism; it is the kind of novel that tells you that everything is possible as long as you really want it to happen. That may sound like an oversimplified version of new-age philosophy and mysticism, but as it was said on page 15 of the book by the gypsy woman "It's the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary; only wise men are able to understand them.”

As the King of Salem himself says, when he appears to Santiago in the plaza on page 22 of the book "And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." This is the core of the novel's philosophy and a motif that echoes behind Coelho's writing all through "The Alchemist". And isn't it true that the whole of humankind desperately wants to believe the old king when he says that the greatest lie in the world is that at some point we lose the ability to control our lives, and become the pawns of fate. Perhaps this is the secret of Coelho's success: that he tells people what they want to hear, or rather that he tells them that what they wish for but never thought possible could even be probable.

Coelho also suggests that those who do not have the courage to follow their Personal Legend are doomed to a life of emptiness, misery, and unfulfillment. Fear of failure seems to be the greatest obstacle to happiness. As shown on page 55 of the book when the old crystal merchant tragically confess: “But I’m afraid that it would be all disappointment, so I prefer just to dream about it.” This is where Coelho really captures the drama of man, who sacrifices fulfillment to conformity, who knows he can achieve greatness but denies to do so, and ends up living a life of...
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