Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The Alchemist

Inspiring and comforting read

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is an international bestseller and for that many have shared their opinions about the novel. Many reviews raved about its enchanting effect while some criticized it as too simplistic, preachy and redundant.

It is true that The Alchemist is simplistic, both in narrative style and its plot. A shepherd boy from Spain was bothered by his recurrent dreams so he sought a gypsy to interpret it. The gypsy said that he was being called to visit the Pyramids in Egypt where there is a treasure waiting for him.  At first the boy doubted the dream, but when he meets the King of Salem and taught the boy about every person’s Personal Legend, the shepherd changed his mind. With a spirit of an adventurer, the boy sets out to find his treasure. All these were narrated from a third-person point of view. But in these ways, it makes it a fitting novel for readers of any age.

It is also true that it tends to be redundant. The Alchemist, it seems, was written not to impress people by its narrative style or by having a complicated plot; instead, it seems that the goal of the novel is simply to tell the story of an adventure that will remind readers of faith and wisdom.  The redundancy and simplicity is expected as the theme of faith means to believe on the fundamentals of things. It encourages readers to go back to the roots of things. To create an emphasis, similar statements are repeated each time the shepherd faces a struggle. 


“There was moment of silence so profound that it seemed the city was asleep…It was as if the world had fallen silent because the boy’s soul had. He sat there, staring blankly through the door of the cafĂ©, wishing he had died, and that everything would end forever at that moment.
The merchant looked anxiously at the boy. 
All the joy he had seen that morning had suddenly disappeared.”

The novel is also preachy as it cites some stories from the bible, referred to as ‘Tradition’ in the story. This perception depends, and greatly varies on every reader. It is good to take note though that in this novel, the protagonist is a young shepherd. He is depicted as someone innocent about the ways of life. In his journey, he meets other characters, mostly men of older age. In literature, old age is commonly used to represent or imply wisdom while youth is shown as innocence or aggressiveness. Those very styles were also used in The Alchemist. Aside from mentions of stories from the bible, there are many preachy lines from the older characters addressed to the boy. Because of this, the readers may feel like they are played as innocent as the boy and forced to listen to the elder characters' preaching.

The Alchemist does not appeal to the intellect. It also does not stir heavy emotions nor provide detailed descriptions of its settings. The Alchemist simply tells a story of a magical experience that a boy goes through while in pursuit of his dream. It is an inspiring and comforting read for those who needs to have a hopeful and lighter view of life.

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