Message Delivered with Symbols
Paulo Coelho uses characters, terms, and objects to represent abstract ideas to stimulate the readers in his novel, The Alchemist. The title itself refers to a character in the story that helps the protagonist to in accomplishing his dream. Although the alchemist is not the protagonist of the story, he symbolizes the author’s message: self-discovery and the potential in all people. There are two major themes in the story: achieving one’s Personal Legend, and the presence of God. A Personal Legend is a life’s purpose or goal that was created for one to achieve. This is the main and reoccurring theme in the story. The theme of the presence of God is intrinsic to the story as well, for God is mentioned all throughout the story. Coelho uses symbols to develop and enrich these themes in the story. As one of the supporting characters that have a hand in the transformation of Santiago, the alchemist gives insight to Santiago to help achieve his Personal Legend. With his own success of turning metal into gold, the alchemist shows Santiago that one’s dream is capable of reaching—that one’s Personal Legend can be achieved. While the alchemist symbolizes the achievement of Personal Legends, two characters in the story symbolize the dissipation of Personal Legends: the baker and the crystal merchant. The baker is introduced to Santiago and the readers by King Melchizedek, an old man who first mentions Personal Legend in the story. He hints to Santiago to not be like the baker and continue on with his dream: “The old man pointed to a baker standing in his shop window at one corner of the plaza. “When he was a child, that man wanted to travel, too. But he decided first to buy his bakery and put some money aside. When he’s an old man, he’s going to spend a month in Africa. He never realized that people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of” (Coelho 31). The baker’s original plan was to travel, but he planned to...
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