Book: The Alchemist
Author: Paulo Coelho
“The Alchemist”, written by Paulo Coelho in 1988, is the story of a young boy’s search for his personal legend. The novel is set around the lessons he learns and the experiences gained, with his quest becoming the real treasure, rather than the physical promise of gold he was expecting. Some of the many lessons he learns are that of how learning is different for everyone and that learning should be respected, that everyone he meets is equal to one another and to him, and lastly that he has a personal connection to his environment allowing him to expand his universe via these life lessons. Personally I found this book very enlightening and a text that shared a lot of values I hold for myself.
This story is about a young man, who goes nameless, who is in search of his personal legend. He uses omens and the teaching of a king at the start of the novel, to help guide him, to what he believes is his life’s destiny; this being to find treasure of some sort out in the deserts of Egypt. Throughout his Journey he faces many challenges, running out of money and having to work for some time, becoming caught up in a tribal war, and falling in love with a woman who cannot come with him on his journey. As his quest is delayed and delayed he never loses hope, learning from those he meets and the experience he gains.“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realise his dream,” This quote from an alchemist the boy meets, shows him and us about how everything that has happened and will happen, along his journey has and will happen for a reason. The teachings the young man learns are the what makes his legend more important, and while on his journey, he learns how to speak the language of the universe, through the knowledge he has gained to find this personal legend.
“I have inside me the winds, the deserts, the oceans, the stars, and everything created in the universe. We were all made by the same hand, and we have the same soul.” One of the main themes of this book that I found interesting is that we, humans, plants, earth, are all one and the same. Although I do not personally believe in a ‘higher being’ that created everyone, the idea that we are all one and the same is interesting to be seen in a period piece of literature, written more than thirty years ago. This is interesting due to the fact that in modern day society (I would define this from 1900 until present day) that those ideas are still not put into practice; even though we, as a general society, see ourselves as more advanced and more civilised people. The novel is set in Egypt during a pre-technology medieval age; a country, in present day, that many consider to be ruled by an oppressive and dangerous regime. The idea of equality, in terms of people and animals and class, in a time long before our “civilised era” seems unlikely, and a philosophy that not many people would have followed. Although this side of a more caring and compassionate humanity is presented in the novel, it’s a practice that seems to be very lacking in actuality. For example countries such as the United States of America, England and New Zealand pride themselves on believing in equality and justice, and in providing these kinds of living conditions to their citizens. However, we know that racism and sexism run rampant through these “civilised” modern countries. Things such as the wage gap, double standards and stereotypes stop us from achieving real equality in genders; and racism provides barriers that keep classism alive and well in Western countries. From our main character’s perspective he treats the people he meets with continued respect and is ultimately saved by each of them in turn, as his willingness to accept others at no consequence to himself, it leaves him open to more possibilities of friendship and of knowledge; which is the whole point of his journey. Through the boy’s actions in his way of treating people, we as a reader and as a population can see how our own actions can affect others, and how the kindness and respect for others will mean an abundance of respect and compassion shown towards us, as we will have a more empathetic understanding of each other, as we see each other on equal terms; an idea that I believe in quite passionately making this novel even more appealing a a teaching device.
One of the more interesting themes in the novel I found, were that in the “The Alchemist” there was the same respect for people learning in different methods/ by different means, as others. Throughout the story, we see the young man mainly through his own mind, but occasionally we see him from different character’s perspective. This gives us as the audience an omniscient experience where we learn with him and see how other types of learning affects him and those around him. One such scene, is where the boy and an English scientist have a chance meeting; they then travel through the Sahara desert together. The boy watches the road and nature around him learning through listening and looking, through his connection and through having this physical experience, learns from what is right in front of him. He is able to distinguish happenings around him; things such as time, season and information on the plant and animal life in the desert via observation. In contrast the English scientist prefers to read his books all day to learn the same thing from the desert, he does not observe and does not experience while still gaining the knowledge required to survive the desert. When the two swap methods, the scientist to now observe and the boy to read, we see how these different methods of learning effect each character: “It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.”The English scientist comes to the conclusion that he can learn nothing from simply observing the desert. The boy also finds the books more confusing and too complex than the simplicity of reading the land. As the audience we learn with these two character how they both are intellectual in their own right, each has the information needed and can express opinion and have a discussion around the knowledge they have gathered; the means of how they got to this point are irrelevant when the discussion can still be had, and still be understood by both parties. In his book, the author Paulo Coelho focuses on the message he believes to be important. That there are different ways to learn the same thing, some methods work for some individuals and that method may not be the best for others. We often see in modern environments that some methods of learning and gathering knowledge is considered to be higher, or is more deserving of respect that another. Others dictate what way of learning they believe to be best, rather than what is best fit for the students. Something that I agree can be learned from the characters in the novel, by our modern learning environments, is that how the learning occurs does not matter; how that learning can be communicated and used is what is most important.
In the novel, “The Alchemist,” written by Paulo Coehlo we discover some of its main lessons. Some of which are, that we are all one and the same and that we each should live with this in mind, another is that people learn in different ways and that the knowledge is more important than the ways of getting it. And that we all have a deep rooted connection to our planet and to our respective environments. These are points that are important to the development of our modern societies. Not appreciated in it’s early editions, Paulo Coelho’s story has lasted for over 40 years and has been translated into 67 languages, making it a long lasting cultural classic. I believe that It shows these progressive ideas in a way that is simple and reminds us, when we have our judgments clouded by the pressure of modern life, of all that should be considered some of the more important things. Aspects such as learning and equality that will allow us to actually move forward in a more positive means.