The Alchemist

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“Field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star,” is a line in the traditional Christmas song We Three Kings, explaining how the Three Kings were on a journey to seek the Baby Jesus. Paulo Coelho, the author of The Alchemist, engages the reader through a pilgrimage of life through his novel. This story is about a shepherd boy, Santiago, who travels from Spain to Egypt in search for a treasure which is buried in the Great Pyramids. His journey causes him to meet many people including a gypsy woman, a man who refers to himself as a king, an alchemist, and a woman named Fatima. Santiago’s pilgrimage takes him to the countries of Spain and Egypt and to places such as a desert, a crystal shop, and an oasis. Coelho suggests that individuals should not avoid their destinies, and urges all to follow their dreams. Coelho further suggests that when an individual finds his/her “Personal Myth” on Earth, he/she finds the way to "God" and to one’s ultimate happiness. Paulo Coelho skillfully utilizes rhetorical devices such as symbolism, conflict, and character motivation to engage the reader fully into the dreams, desires, and experiences of Santiago’s journey. The Alchemist is bursting with symbols that influence the reader’s perceptions of Coelho’s work. Though the symbols are concrete, they deepen the reader’s understanding of the similarities of Santiago’s joys and trials with those of all people. One of the most influential symbols in The Alchemist is the desert. Coelho states, “But the desert is so huge, and the horizons so distant, that they make a person feel small, and as if he should remain silent” (73). The desert, a harsh and challenging environment, symbolizes the serious difficulties that anyone encounters in pursuit of their Personal Legend. The desert, however, builds Santiago’s strength and perseverance as he survives its heat, its vastness, and its emptiness. Santiago realizes that even in the bare desert, he can learn about himself and the...
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