A review of 'The Alchemist' - A fable about following dreams

"Repetitive but thought-provoking"

Introduction Paulo Coelho, who is a gifted writer with excellent mind, is a strong believer of the future. He himself went on a long search for his fulfillment. His success lies much on the way he conveys the illusive reality by using a language that does not speak to brain but heart, which is through his bestseller book 'The Alchemist'. The Alchemist, in fact, is the one who understands nature and the world. The purpose of this book is to show the right ways to fulfill 'Personal Legends', which are the ultimate goals of life. You may find this appropriate for you to find your dreams if you do not know where to start with.

Summary of content
The story is about how Santiago, who Coelho referred as 'the boy' because he is still inexperienced, has turned out to be a true alchemist eventually. He has dreamt of distant treasures in Egyptian Pyramids, so he deliberately left Spain and started his thousand-mile journey in order to follow his dreams. On the way, he encountered several spiritual messengers who appeared in unassuming forms, like Gypsies, king, merchant, camel driver and the knowledgeable Englishman. The boy learnt about alchemist from the Englishman and eventually met the real alchemist. Finally, with the help of the alchemist's insight as well as the omens, the boy found the concrete treasure - gold coins, precious stones and gold masks.

Analysis of text
The development of 'The Alchemist' is simple without conventional plot, just like a typical adventure story, in which people strive for buried treasure stuff. Even though there was genuine treasure but not those hidden ones, the first time I read I thought Coelho was upholding Materialism. Perhaps this journey was set in ancient times, with a lot of events happened that was impossible to be seen nowadays. Coelho added humanistic features - the ability to speak and to think of the sun and the wind. This illustrates that even though the style of the fable is simple but Coelho tried to convey meaningful and synchronistic messages in the form of analogies.

There is a central theme in this book - listen to our hearts and follow our paths in search of dreams. Coelho implies that we should do what we are willing to do, since we face obstacles in life, and we should believe in forces within self. If one doesn't follow self, that's what prevents them from realizing their dreams! When we listen to our hearts, for "it knows all things" (p. 130), life will be really generous to us in the pursuit of our dreams (p. 166), we will then be motivated to seek help. The boy's heart was afraid that "it will have to suffer" (p. 131), so he asked the alchemist for help. Then he received the signs (or the omens) - fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself and every attempt for search is an encounter with God (p. 131). In other words, Coelho taught us in words that we should have faith in oneself and "strive to become better than what we are"; everything around us will eventually be better (p. 151). Even we are unable to listen to our hearts, it doesn't mean a total failure in our lives. Coelho emphasized that the entire universe conspires to help us realize our dreams (p. 64; 116; 123). In the journey of exploration and self-discovery, we should be able to interpret the events encountered with the help of the omens (or signs); we should first recognize our dreams and then follow them in search of ultimate fulfillment of life. Coelho again taught us that treasure isn't what is to be found at the end of the journey, however, the journey itself and wisdom acquired in the process are the hidden treasures. This is what the alchemist kept digging for treasure even the boy has found lots of gold near the Pyramids of Egypt (p. 163). The above are the strong arguments that support his philosophical views through analogies and in-depth interpretations of my own.

Until this point, my general impression to this book is generally good. There are still some shortcomings. Since this is a two-part fable which includes the fable itself and the attached moral values, Coelho presented a piece of work which is in repetitious in nature. There is limited character development in order to allow his central theme standing out, and therefore, there is weak dialogue between characters, especially between Fatima and the Santiago. Although he discovered love in the desert, he was searching for the origin of love. Fatima gave a vague response of 'there is no reason for loving' (p. 123) Coelho developed a weak argument for the concept of 'love' in this book. He tried to show the importance of love. Love can transform the Soul of the World (p. 152) and 'when we love, we always strive to be better than we are' (p. 152). As no man is an island, all of us need to be loved. In my view, besides the fulfillment of dreams; the ultimate goal for us to live on is the word 'love'.

In addition, Coelho has neglected to consider the limitations of adults (grown-ups). There were contradictions within the boy's heart. In the beginning, the heart said, "We speak of those treasures only to children" (p. 132), later on the alchemist told the boy that people's hearts would suffer if they kept telling them to follow their dreams (p. 133). Why revealing those reassures to children only? Yes, Coelho might have discovered children's good qualities: honest, authentic, appreciate the beauty of the world, curious. I think he should consider the group of adults as well. Comparatively, Saint-Exupéry's 'The Little Prince' implies that being a grown-up is only a state of mind, not a fact of life. Even the narrator in the story is already in adult years but remains childlike ('The Little Prince'; Ch. 1). In this case, Coelho has made the reader in a hopeless state of mind, with the emphasis on adults should follow their dreams alone without any aiding force - the heart.

Evaluation of text
Initially, I thought this book was another monotonous philosophical book and I was bored by reading at points, so I jumped a lot of pages. Although the ending is quite ambiguous, it is indeed thought-provoking. I keep asking myself these two questions after reading: Am I who I want to be? Or am I living my life for others only? Life will not be complicated when we follow our dreams honestly and passionately. Such genuine passion and enthusiasm will be rewarded with success. Also, those who love us immensely will encourage us to pursue our goals. This book reminds me that it's easy to give up dreams and abandon one's passion, so faith plays an important role in making decisions. All in all, this book reveals that experienced gained as well as the lessons learnt in the journey will lead us onto a higher levels of understanding towards the world. I see this book an extraordinary guide to life, in which does not resemble the self-help books, listing all the things we should do in order to fulfill our dreams.

This book has changed my narrow views of world; it affects the ultimate goal of my life, as cliché as it sounds. By relating it to my life, it gives me a lesson in truth, as if I just attended a philosophy course! It supports the words of the author Muriel Rukeyser 'the universe is made up of stories, not atoms'. I just realize I have neglected lots of spiritual needs within my life. After reading this book, I am now unwilling to toss away my dreams. No matter how intense my fear is, I will pay attention to signs of blessings and directions given in hidden forms. I am now looking forward to seeing more people reading this guide to dream fulfillment.