An above average novel is one that contains issues and topics that allows a reader (if they choose) to ponder what was being said and how that can be connected to real life. An even better novel doesn’t give a reader the choice. They will not only want to truly continue to think about the issues and themes presented throughout the story, but also to discuss them with others to get more insight and understanding. That was exactly what The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho was able to do. Many themes that Coelho brilliantly inserted into the storyline allow for conversation after reading the book.
The obvious topic that came up throughout the series of events was the concept of “Personal Legends”. That topic was very important and meaningful, but there were two less identifiable (yet still as important) issues that stood out in a different way. They were the importance of friendship and how alchemy isn’t just turning metal into gold. A common expression many people use is, “Two opinions are better than one”. That certainly applies to these topics and themes, making it important to converse about them with others.
First, I spoke to my sister about the importance of friendship, since she and I share an amazing friendship and both know how important it is to us. She felt that friendship is one of the most important things for an individual to have because it gives you reassurance, the ability to hear others opinions (whether you agree with them or not), and overall happiness. Friends keep you going, listen to you, and give you guidance in everyday life. She also felt that good friendship is a necessity to be happy.
It’s human nature to want to be cherished by someone else because it makes you feel important and wanted (two feelings most people probably want to have). Next, I gave my sister a synopsis about The Alchemist, since she has never read it, so she could apply her opinions to what occurred throughout the story. She felt that the friends Santiago made in the crystal merchant, the Englishman, the camel driver, Melchizedek, Fatima, and, of course, the alchemist all played important parts in him achieving his Personal Legend.
Those friends and others gave him advice, inspiration, guidance, and insight. Without that, Santiago may never have achieved what he did. Friendship played a large role in his success. The second person I discussed with was my dad. We talked about how alchemy is much more than just turning metal into gold. After giving him an overview of the plot of The Alchemist, the first thing I asked him was, “Do you think there is something more to the idea and practice of alchemy in the book? He said, “Based on what you are telling me, it seems like alchemy was more of a metaphor than anything else in the book. Although alchemy literally represents turning metals into gold, it also figuratively represents the transformation of Santiago and his friends. They all had to overcome hardship and conflict, get rid of the impurities in their lives, and evolve into people that they were satisfied with and felt had more value than before. And throughout the evolution and transformation, they became even closer to achieving their Personal Legends. Then, we discussed how alchemy can be applied to real life. My dad felt that the process of alchemy, figuratively, is very different from the process of alchemy, literally. The literal process is quick and easy. The figurative process is very long, difficult, and requires large amounts of determination and bravery. There are no shortcuts in evolving, overcoming hardships, becoming a better person, and achieving one’s Personal Legend. Also, my dad felt that the immunity that is achieved by using the Elixir of Life in The Alchemist isn’t realistic in the figurative sense of alchemy.
When someone is trying to achieve their Personal Legend and transform in a way that makes them a dynamic person, experience tons of bumps and hardships along the way (they won’t be immune to conflict). Understanding that alchemy has two “sides” is necessary to understanding the message the novel is trying to send. After reading the novel, thinking about the message and opinion Paulo Coelho was trying to send, and conversing with my sister and dad, my own opinions really began to take shape.
As far as the importance of friendship, I definitely agree with my sister’s opinion. Friendship is one of the most important and essential things for somebody to have, since it gives you a sense of being cherished, and it fills you with happiness. Friends give reassurance, guidance, and someone to talk to when you need it most. In The Alchemist, I feel that Santiago’s friends did exactly that for him. They didn’t let him make the mistake of not pursuing his Personal Legend, gave him happiness throughout his difficult transformation, and showed him that aking the easy way out and living with regret is never the correct answer. Without their insight and guidance, I feel Santiago may have never achieved his lofty Personal Legend. As far as alchemy being more than turning metal into gold, I definitely agree with my dad. The process of alchemy has a literal and figurative side to it. A person making a great change and achieving a big goal by being determined and evolving little by little along the way can definitely be classified as alchemy, in a figurative sense.
Knowing all the facts isn’t enough to achieve greatness. Being wise, practical, and knowing all corners of a subject are just as important. I think this is exactly what Coelho was trying to say. Without being brave, determined, and headstrong, by taking the shortcut or easy way out, and not having some great friends along the way, one will never be able to succeed or attain their Personal Legend. The Alchemist presents this concept in a way that makes it tangible and something I think many people will take to heart and apply to their own lives.