While reading the first section of the novel I noticed that perhaps Coelho is questioning religion. He seems to be questioning religion in the sense that he is doubtful about its use in finding God and personal fulfillment. On page 10 the narrator reveals one of Santiago’s thoughts about religion: “I couldn’t have found God in the seminary.” This shows how structured theology and structured religious instruction may not allow a person to find God, therefore stressing that one must make a personal, freer effort to find God. Coelho also seems to criticize religion when the narrator mentions the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that was in the dream interpreter’s room on page 11. The woman interprets the dream the best of her abilities and then asks for ten percent of Santiago’s treasure. The atmosphere in the woman’s house doesn’t mesh with the religious images that are present. The woman not only lacks a sufficient interpretation but then greedily asks for a treasure that hasn’t even been discovered yet. She is a somewhat shady and greedy character that relies on supernatural perhaps magical methods. So to have religious figures around, the author, in a way, devalues religion.
Coelho expresses much social commentary in this section. The narrator describes on page 16 how people think they know what is best for others yet never for themselves. This message is definitely relatable to today’s society and gives the novel a philosophical quality. He again criticizes society on page 23 when the King of Salem describes how society establishes false connotations about people and how these connotations stop people from fulfilling their dreams. Overall it seems that he is trying to stress ideas of individualism and fulfilling one’s own expectations rather than those of society.
Going along with the theme of society, the theme of maintaining an image is prevalent as well. On page 19 Santiago doesn’t want to ask where the kingdom of Salem “fearing that he would appear ignorant”. Santiago also made up stories to impress the merchant’s daughter which we find out on page 17. Coelho is establishing a theme about image perhaps in order to express its negative effects later in the reader. As of right now Santiago is characterized as a person who feels pressured to maintain and image in order to be accepted and to protect his character.
To respond to Mary’s first post before I read your post I too thought it would be interesting to read another of Coelho’s novels. The only problem that may occur is that it would be hard to contrast techniques and writing style if we use the same author. Anyway I definitely noticed that Santiago represents a Christ figure. The flock of sheep lead the reader to this conclusion, but also the way the King of Salem sends Santiago on a journey which reflects how God sent Jesus to Earth. This again emphasizes the religious undertones of the novel so far. To respond to Alinne I too noticed the name thing and again the names reflect the religious theme of the novel.
December 7, 2008 10:44 AM
Blog 2 ,Pgs. 48-79
First I’d like to express my opinions of the novel so far. The novel is full of philosophical meaning and deeper messages that explore issues in life. The problem is that these messages are too obvious and cliché for my taste. It is apparent to the reader what the Personal Legend is meant to represent, one’s true destiny, the destiny that will provide ultimate fulfillment. The theme of following one’s dreams without allowing anything to deter the person, is simply too obvious. One several occasions the narrator and other characters will say profound statements or adages like “Sometimes, there’s just no way to hold back the river” (59), meaning that sometimes people cannot stomp out their desires. The people that Santiago is encountering seem a bit too wise. These proverbs that are being used hither and thither don’t give the reader much of a challenge. As a reader I want to be given the chance to decipher the message.
Another point of irritation is that there are too many of these profound themes to follow, including following one’s dreams, destiny and fate, beginner’s luck, change, listening to nature, omens, and the universal language. I guess all of the themes are interconnected but it sure is overwhelming for me as a reader to try and comprehend each of these themes. Also, it seems like Coelho is trying to achieve too much, he’s trying to get too many messages across. He should have limited the number of themes and symbols he used. But that’s just my opinion; maybe I’m missing his point…
To Mary, you mention the theme of oneness. I interpreted this “oneness” to mean individuality meaning oneness with oneself. That being said, I do see what you’re saying. It does appear that Coelho is unifying nature, God, and people. This concept does clash a bit with my post on section one because I interpreted Coelho to be denouncing societal unity in the sense that individuals shouldn’t assimilate to society. I may be confusing assimilation with unity by using these terms interchangeably. Switching gears, Mary’s point on the crystal merchant, is interesting. The merchant serves as an example of someone who has put his dreams on hold and has reached a comfort zone without reaching his dream. The merchant teaches Santiago this lesson. Later when Santiago convinces him to follow his purpose in life, the merchant experiences great success. Again this shows the benefits of leaving comfort zones in pursuit of greater happiness and success. The namelessness of the merchant emphasizes that he is simply an example and allows the reader to focus on the deeper message that he reveals.
December 7, 2008 11:21 AM
Blog 3, Pgs. 80-104
In this section birds, especially hawks are mentioned. After doing some casual research, I found that hawks were frequently used in Arabia for hunting and in ancient Egypt they were directly related with the human soul. This is interesting because in The Alchemist Santiago’s soul seems to be in accord with nature including the hawks which serve as omens and the hawks help him to “hunt” down his dream. Changing topics, in this section Coelho appears to criticize love. He pits love against one’s Personal legend. Although the Englishman mentions that without love dreams would have no meaning, it is apparent that Coelho also wants to express that lave shouldn’t stop person from achieving their dreams. This becomes clear on page 97 when the Santiago thinks, “Love required [the shepherds] to stay with the people they loved”. Since so much of the novel is based on the idea of movement in achieving dreams, I concluded that Coelho is criticizing love that holds are person back from their goals, love that creates a premature comfort zone.
Another topic I want to address is the setting, specifically the setting of this section. The arid desert is contrasted with the lush oasis. The oasis is located in the center of the desert, at the center of chaos. There is war and uninhabitable conditions in the desert. The oasis in contrast, is a war free zone where people have settled. Therefore I’ve concluded that the desert represents the hardships that stand in one’s way on the journey to their dreams. The oasis represents the comfortable zone where people remain due to fear of facing hardships to achieve their goals.
Responding to Mary’s third post, she mentions “The Englishman follows the rules of the book in order to achieve his dreams while Santiago follows the instinct in his heart…”. This is a great observation. This conclusion was totally over my head, as I couldn’t really figure out the role of the Englishman. Coelho is using the Englishman to compare to Santiago, which in turn compares the methods used to reach one’s goals. This message could be interpreted to mean that using other’s interpretations and information (which is symbolized by the books) is less successful than following one’s own heart. In response to Alinne’s third post, you make a good point when you say “The purpose of reaching a Personal Legend is to experience”. We therefore can say that the experience is symbolized by “the journey”. I agree with Mary’s suggestion, perhaps we can focus on this theme when choosing the second book. Alinne’s brings up another interesting point: one only needs three persons to achieve their Personal Legend. It’s a creative philosophy and is a bit radical but I think that Coelho is laying out that suggestion so that we as readers can apply it to our own contexts. Not to be facetious, but this novel is similar to a motivational speaker. Maybe that is the mood that Coelho wanted to achieve.
December 7, 2008 12:32 PM
Blog 4, Pgs. 104-138
The alchemist arrives riding on a horse dressed in all black. Due to the religious undertones, I immediately related this scene to the Book of Revelation in the Bible, specifically the part about the four horsemen. Because this book is full of religious allusions, I decided that it maybe this is what the alchemist in black symbolized, but honestly I don’t know how to connect the idea any further than that. In the Bible the four horsemen are indicative of evil and hardship. The alchemist on the other hand is Santiago’s guide and is a righteous, wise character. Perhaps the alchemist is related to the horsemen and the Book of Revelations in the sense that he reveals his wisdom to Santiago and he indicates the beginning of imminent hardships on Santiago’s journey. This connection may be a bit of a stretch but I though it was worth mentioning. Oh just remembered, to back up this argument on page 132 the narrator says, “It is said that the darkest hour of the night came just before the dawn”. This reflects the idea of hardship during the apocalypse that the Book of Revelation mentions. Then after this time of turmoil, eternal paradise will be achieved.
Love is brought up again in this section. Coelho points out that love, although it seems like the ultimate treasure, may be a false dream. Santiago argues that Fatima is his greatest treasure and the alchemist rebuts by saying, “She wasn’t found at the Pyramids…”(115). Since Santiago’s treasure is at the Pyramids, there is no way Fatima was truly the treasure. On page 120 the alchemist then says that “…love never keeps a man from pursuing his Personal Legend. If he abandons that pursuit it’s because it wasn’t true love…the love that speaks the Language of the World”. Here, the idea that true love allows personal fulfillment to be reached first, is stressed.
Coelho separates the idea of life and fate. These two elements are often seen as the same: one’s life is one’s fate. Here Coelho defies that belief. The alchemist tells Santiago, “Later, we simply let life proceed, in its own direction, towards its own fate”. So it seems as if life will just roll by when a person choose to allow it to do so. The difference between life and fate is that a person can choose their fate by taking control and taking action, in the same way that Santiago is reaching his Personal Legend. If a person doesn’t take some control then life will take control and lead the person to another, perhaps undesired, fate. It is also interesting that Coelho separates life from the person. Generally, we think that life and a person are the same thing or at work in unison. Here Coelho separates them to show that we must strip away every part of our being to understand our true “Personal Legends” or destinies.
To add a quick note, on page 135 when Santiago asks who the heart helps the alchemist responds by saying “…they do help children, drunkards, and the elderly, too”. All of these groups have one thing in common: they are all naïve to a certain degree. Since the heart dictates the emotions maybe Coelho is saying that the naive allow their emotions to dictate their choices or their lives. Just a thought.
In Mary’s third post she makes a thought-provoking point. I noticed the role of women in the book but I chose to not give it much thought. To answer her question, the book would definitely have a different effect if some of the gender roles were reversed. Women appear to have simple, similar, and trivial Personal Legends in the book. All the women of the oasis have the same goal while the men seem to have more dynamic dreams. After all of the talk about not letting anything stop one’s personal legend, it does seem that the book becomes hypocritical when it discusses women’s dreams. Also, I agree that there is definitely a double-standard in society. Women are somewhat berated for abandoning the family to pursue her dreams.
I find a lot of the themes in Coelho’s book contradictory. Mary mentions that “asking others for their opinions and advice only steer us to more confusion”. While I can see how this is apparent in the book, especially because asking for advice can steer someone looking to achieve his/her Personal Legend in the wrong direction. I mention in my first post that the idea of individualism is present throughout the book. At the same time Santiago meets and gets advice from several characters on his journey. He uses their advice to gain his own personal success. Since both sides of the argument are present, Coelho may be trying to say that listening to advice is helpful and necessary as long as it doesn’t detract from one’s Personal Legend.
December 7, 2008 1:33 PM
Blog 4, Pgs. 138-167
In this section Santiago finds his treasure. It happens to be at the ruined church, the exact place where the story started. This definitely emphasizes the idea that the journey was the more important than the treasure. Santiago learns so much important philosophical information on his quest, information that he would have learned if he didn’t set out to get his treasure. If he would have been informed about the location of the treasure from the beginning then he would have had no need to take the journey. Therefore he would have not gained the valuable knowledge that he learned along the way. He would have also missed out on true love. An significant question to consider is: What was Santiago’s the Personal Legend, the gold treasure or the wisdom that he gained along the way?
As for my opinion on the book and the ending, I did enjoy reading this novel despite some elements of the book that I disagreed with and disliked. The book effectively keeps the reader’s attention due to its mystical quality and suspense. The journey allows the reader want to keep reading in order to find out what the end of the journey has to offer. Overall, I found this book interesting and appreciated its use of mystical themes.
To address Mary’s post about the books purpose, I think we can all agree that the most obvious purpose concerns the journey to one’s dreams. She mentions, “I feel as though Coelho is showing his audience the true importance of one’s dreams is the journey to achieve it”. I totally agree. All of the little themes of the book combine to form this all-encompassing theme. In one of my previous post I mentioned my conclusion and overwhelmed feeling due to the abundance of little philosophical themes. Although I still feel that there were too many little themes to keep track of, I do now see that they all contributed to create the importance of the journey. I also agree with Alinne when she says that the journey allows the adventurer to mature in order to handle the treasure of their Personal Legend. Along Santiago’s journey he learns a lot about handling money which in turn allows him to be able to handle having the treasure. Like Mary said, it’s funny that this is the theme that Mr. G suggested; it was as if we took our own circular journey in search of a theme while reading this book.
December 7, 2008 2:23 PM