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Santiago’s Life Obstacles in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

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Santiago’s Life Obstacles in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho Essay

The greatest and most important adventure in our lives is discovering our true purpose in this world. Whether we are embarking on a new-found love interest or wanting to explore our utmost life’s aspirations, we will always experience obstacles along the way. In Paulo Coelho’s book, The Alchemist, follows a shepherd boy named Santiago through a journey to find his treasure. Santiago is lead through Spain to Egypt having to face through test after test to come to reality with his dream to find his treasure. Through his personal journey Santiago overcomes fear, listens to omens and uses life’s hurdles as blessings, to create and live his ultimate life.

As Santiago ventures to pursue his personal legend he comes across many instances where he is presented with a barrier of fear that he must overcome. To begin, the fear of whether or not he is contradicting his own opportunity to achieve higher and more ambitious things in life. While Santiago knows that being a priest would make his father happy and that his father’s wishes would give their family both social status and financial security, Santiago begins to learn that pursuing what is expected of him is not going to make him happy or help him pursue his personal legend. Even after Santiago’s father expresses his doubt by stating, “those who pursue dreams are never satisfied” (Coelho 11), Santiago still firmly sets his father’s dreams aside to pursue his own. At this point Santiago acknowledges that the world has to offer many things and a priest is not one of them. He realizes that there is a fear in not becoming what he can be, but rather to cave in to what he is expected to be. Next, the fear of losing his life in the battle at Al-Fayoum in the midst of the journey makes Santiago wonder if it is befitting to jeopardize his life to pursue a dream. Santiago learns how to handle this situation as, “the camel driver has once said, to die tomorrow is no worse than dying on any other. Every day was there to be lived or to mark one’s departure from this world.”Santiago begins to realize that if he does die, he will at least have died in the state of pursuing what he was destined to do which is his personal legend. He learns to live in the present rather than dwelling on the unknown. His personal legend is a complete representation of himself. Santiago recognizes that following his personal dream is worth more than his life. The vital importance of his personal legend understates the thought of his death because living without a personal legend would be worse than death itself since he would have to live a life that was not meant for him. Lastly, Santiago fear of losing everything he has worked hard for catches him to doubt continuing his journey towards his personal legend. Due to the fear of failure when the alchemist forces him to try and turn himself into the wind. Santiago states,

‘“Heart is a traitor…it does not want him to go on. ‘That makes sense, ‘the alchemist answered. ‘Naturally it is afraid that, in pursuing a dream, a person might lose everything they have won…don’t give into your fears…if a person is living out his personal legend, he knows everything he needs to know. There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”’ 

All through the novel, Santiago is known for following what he truly desires but, in this case, he seems to fall back on what he truly feels is right. The alchemist seems to encourage Santiago to move on from his fear by persuading him that fear is definitely normal on the road to riches but that giving up on his dreams because of his feeling would not be right. Santiago’s takes the alchemist advice and conquers his fear of doubt of losing everything to continue his journey. Through his experiences and choices, Santiago learns to overcome his fears to reach his destiny.

Throughout the novel the significance of omens is shown throughout Santiago’s journey. Omens play a crucial role in deciphering Santiago’s fate. He’s first omen appears through his dream with both the gypsy and King of Salem, where he was taken to the Egyptian pyramids and was told that, “if you come here, you will find a hidden treasure”. This vision is what Santiago believes will lead him to his treasure. This dream symbolizes something much greater; it portrays the rewards Santiago will gain if he sticks to his goal to fulfil his personal legend. It is what helps keeps Santiago’s dreams alive on his quest. These omens continue on later when he almost gives up on his pursuit when working for the crystal merchant. The two stones Urim and Thummim, that were given to him by the King fell from his jacket. This resulting in Santiago reconsidering and revealing what the king had told him to, “Never stop dreaming”, and to “Follow the omens” (Coelho 62). These exact omens are what motivated Santiago to pursue the choices he makes. Santiago feels courage sent from the old king through the stones and is what encourages him again to continue his journey. The presence of characters has also been omens in Santiago’s life. The alchemist plays a significant role as an omen in Santiago life. The alchemist teaches Santiago to listen to his heart in order to know all its fears, wishes and dreams. “The heart is alive. Keep listening to what it has to say” (Coelho 134), shares the alchemist, and that is just what Santiago chooses to do. By learning from the alchemist Santiago’s heart tells him his greatest qualities, “his courage in having given up his sheep and in trying to live out his Personal Legend, and his enthusiasm during the time he had worked at the crystal shop” (Coelho 134). Without the alchemist Santiago would not have accomplished listening to his heart and never would have learned these new aspects about himself. The omens presented to Santiago are what show how close he is on his personal quest to understanding the Universal Language of the World and achieving his Personal Legend. Nevertheless, the omens in Santiago’s play a large role in his pursuit to his personal legend.

We all encounter barriers while trying to fulfill a goal in life. Santiago overcomes many of obstacles to reach his personal goal. Santiago overcomes many hurdles one of them being love. Santiago must risk losing his new-found love for Fatima. The Alchemist and Santiago conversed stating, “I’m going to guide you across the desert,” the Alchemist said. “I want to stay at the oasis,” the boy answered. “I’ve found Fatima and as far as I am concerned, she’s worth more than treasure” (Coelho 122). This is the most difficult part of Santiago’s journey. He feels like Fatima is the love of his life and is willing to give up his personal legend for her. He knows that he has to pursue his personal legend but is afraid of hurting the one person he loves in order to pursue a dream. He overcomes this with the wise words of The Alchemist, “’You must understand 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'(Coelho x). With the wise words of The Alchemist and the love Fatima expresses to Santiago, gives him the courage to continue on his path to his personal legend. During Santiago’s journey he is told by the crystal merchant that he will never achieve what he has always dreamed of. The crystal merchant states, “But you know that I’m not going to Mecca, just as I know that you are not going to buy your sheep”. Santiago was surprised of what the crystal merchant had told him. Although the crystal merchant did not approve of what Santiago knew was his destiny, he does not give in to the negativity, instead he earns all the money he needed to go on his journey and continues to seek out his personal legend regardless of what the crystal merchant tells him. Santiago listens to his heart to pursue what he knows is right for him. Lastly Santiago overcomes being looted at the beginning of his travels. Santiago entrusts his money with a man he met in bar. The man promised to take Santiago to Egypt but rather mislead him to believe so. Santiago expresses his doubt by saying, “I’m like everyone else – I see the world in terms of what I would like to see happen, not what actually does”. Santiago getting stolen from discourages him from continuing his journey. He feels as though the world is against him and that he will never be able to achieve his dream. With the thought of giving up Santiago is able to find a job as the crystal shop. The loss of his money teaches him to liberate himself. Santiago takes this trail as a lesson to not get mislead while on his road to riches. These life hurdles are what shaped Santiago into a dignified man of many traits in order to achieve his dream.

In conclusion, through Santiago journey to his personal legend he overcomes his fears, listens to omens and uses life’s hurdles as blessings, to create and live his ultimate life. Santiago overcomes his fears of not wanting to follow his father’s dream for him, learning to overpowering his fear of death to pursue his personal legend and learning that failure is not to be feared of and that he should just listen to his heart. Additionally, Santiago listens omens of what the gypsy and King of Salem shown him in his dream, using the two stones Urim and Thummim to guide him and presence of the alchemist who encourages him to pursue his personal legend. Lastly, Santiago prospering through his life hurdles and turns them in to good fortunes when he feels his love for Fatima outweighs his personal legend, when the crystal merchant doubts his ability to achieve his dreams and being robbed at the beginning of his journey. Withal Santiago strives through ever trail and tribulation to create the life he has always desired. When one realizes their personal legend, they endeavor what life has planned to discover the greatest joy of fulfilling such.

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