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“The Alchemist” Literary Review

Updated June 9, 2022
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“The Alchemist” Literary Review essay

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All of humanity suffers from fear in one form or another. The key is how it is dealt with. Humankind fears almost everything, change being one of the biggest. The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo battles fear in every sentence. Santiago is drowning in it and is forced to learn how to cope with it just as those before him have. Every step of his journey is wrapped in fear until he decides to face it. In Paulo Coelho’s novel, The Alchemist, fear plays a major role in shaping Santiago’s journey, as well as other characteristics, to teach the reader that fear can be controlled, if they only have the right mindset.

The stronghold fear has on humanity comes from the biggest thing humanity struggles with most, power. To start off, Santiago is fearful of his personal legend because he has to sacrifice something he loves dearly. At the beginning of the Alchemist, Santiago is with his sheep and is four days out from a village, where the merchant’s daughter lives. He is powerless over controlling his imagination because it always seems to lead back to this girl. That evening he stays in an old abandoned church where an enormous sycamore was growing up through the sacristy. When he falls asleep, he has a dream he has had once before. This dream depicts a boy playing with his sheep. Suddenly, the boy stops playing with the sheep and grasps Santiago’s hand. Immediately he is transported to the Pyramids in Egypt. There the boy tells him about a long lost treasure, but then he wakes up before he hears where the treasure can be found. Mr. Coehllo states in his book The Alchemist, “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting” (Coelho 11).

Most people worry that if they fulfill their personal legend, then they will not have anything left to live for. Little do they know that it is the dreams that push people to be the greatest version of themselves. If President Kenedy had not dreamt of America being the first explorers to the moon, then the Russians would have made it there first. Who knows how that would have shaped the World. The whole World might as well be a crater from an endless nuclear war. The leader of the National League of democracy commented saying, “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it” (Aung San Suu Kyi). Everyone wants to obtain power and never lose grasp of it. When one loses power they become irritable because they believe that the best way to live life is to be at the top of the food chain. When the power they once had is lost, they end up feeling that they are failing at life. The Bible says that whoever wants to be first, must become the last. This completely goes against the rules of society. Having all the power is not the way to live when humanity was built to work together and have friendships. If those are lost, society as we know it faces extinction. That is why people fear the loss of power.

If one chooses not to achieve their goal, then they will have to live with the regret of what could be, until the day they die. Another way to cope with fear is to bury it deep inside. The crystal merchant did this when he said, “But you know that I’m not going to go to Mecca. Just as you know that you’re not going to buy your sheep” (Coelho 61). All humans have loftier goals, but some fear that if they complete their goals, they won’t have a reason to live. Little do they know that the journey never ends. It goes on as long as there is a reason to. The merchant chose to stop before he could get to his life goal, but continues to push Santiago to achieve his goal. The merchant was content with his situation because Santiago helped him make the business superior. Since he poured his heart and soul into the business, he does not want to leave it because it has become a home and comfortable. He cannot move forward if he continues to duel in the past.

“People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they are unable to achieve them” (Coelho 136). The merchant gave up on his dream because he was afraid that if he fulfilled it he would have nothing left. That he would have no life waiting for him when he got back. That his shop would be gone and so would his will to live. People’s hearts get in the way of their personal legend. The Alchemist tells Santiago to “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than suffering itself” (Coelho 130). The heart fears that if one fulfills his or her destiny they will also lose themselves. Fear has the power to cripple a grown man and defeat an entire army. Knowing about the pain one is about to endure causes fear to brew up inside them, and they will never reach their potential. If they are too afraid of the trials to come, they won’t see the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The pain is only temporary, but regret is eternal.

Past, present, and future, all of these have one thing in common, and that is that one cannot change what is in store for them. The third way to deal with one’s fear is to never look back and always be in the now. The Alchemist displays this when he pulls the cobra out of the hole in the rocks. The amazing Philosopher Plato said, “Courage is knowing what not to fear” (Brainy Quotes). Even the bravest among humanity fears something, but very few know what is worth fearing and what is not. That is what sets them apart from the rest. They know what does and does not have the capability to hurt them. The Alchemist knows that the snake cannot hurt him and because of that, he has no fear. If society learns their limits then they will succeed far more than they ever thought they possible because they know what to fear and what not to. President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (Brainy Quotes). President Roosevelt is entirely correct. There is nothing that humanity should fear because everyone has an undefeated champion in their corner that has been to hell and back; literally and figuratively. This champ’s name is Jesus and He will never leave us nor forsake us. He has a plan for everyone on the Earth and it is far more complicated and amazing than our brains can comprehend. The Alchemist tells Santiago, “Don’t think about what you’ve left behind” (Coelho 123). When people dabble in the past, they end up missing the view along the way to the final destination. As the old saying goes, “you can’t go forward if you are stuck in reverse.” Yesterday is dead and gone and it’s never coming back, no one can change that. But at the end of the day, people must learn to cope with what happened that day, week, month, and accept it.

When someone is on their journey, they must find the secret of happiness, which could be anything so long as it is true. The King tells a story about a man who wants to know what the secret of happiness is. In the story, the King tells the man to get a spoon and pour oil on it, then walk around his palace for 2 hours and come back with the oil in his spoon. When he returns to the King, the King asks what he saw when he was walking through his palace. The man is embarrassed because he didn’t see anything because he was too focused on his oil in the spoon. In response to this, the King says, “The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the World, and never forget the drops of oil on the spoon.” (Coelho 32). Society should enjoy their adventure and but never forget why they started the journey in the first place. If they miss all the sights around them, then what is the point of going in the first place. The only way to see the sights and keep up with legend is to, “Never stop dreaming” (Coelho 62). To stop dreaming is to give up one’s youth and inner child. Society has taught people to be mature and to grow up, but deep down they are still a little boy or girl who cannot hide from those who know them. Most people let it slip out every once in a while, but very few live in that moment. When they lose sight of who they were and become an adult, they grow to have no plans or higher goals for the future. They do not have the desire to become something greater, like a little child that wants to be a firefighter, a police officer, a doctor, or someone who can change the World.

The best way to live life is to deal with fear by doing what Santiago did, and the way that the Alchemist did. When one does not look back on the past and faces new challenges head-on, they have fewer problems than those who fear what the day has in store for them. The Bible states that one must, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Joshua is declaring that the Lord is always on people’s side and that He is never going to leave nor forsake them. Society can rest in knowing that the Lord is in control and there is nothing to fear. Paul gives wisdom to the church in Corinth when he said, “We all experience times of testing, which is normal for every human being.

But God will be faithful to you. He will screen and filter the severity, nature, and timing of every test or trial you face so that you can bear it. And each test is an opportunity to trust him more, for along with every trial God has provided for you a way of escape that will bring you out of it victoriously,” (1 Corinthians 10:13). God will never give opportunities to people if they do not have the power to face and overcome them. Both of these verses show that God will always be faithful to his people and he will never give them challenges that they cannot handle. Moses announced, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people,” (Genesis 50:20). God will always take what the enemy meant for harm, and turn it to good. That is how much the Lord loves his people. He always protects them from the plans the enemy has for them. He will never let his people suffer for no reason. Fear stands no chance when the power of God is on their side.

The Alchemist by Palo Coehlo uses fear to play a significant character-shaping role that affects not only Santiago but all those around him. Everyone deals with fear in one way or another, but some are smarter than others because they have developed the skill of knowing when to be afraid. Fear has such a stronghold on humanity because people give it the power to control everything in life. If one should ever fear something in life, it should be the fear of missing the opportunity to do something great.

“The Alchemist” Literary Review essay

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“The Alchemist” Literary Review. (2022, Jun 09). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-alchemist-literary-review/

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