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“As we move through life, the force of fate creates events that we only appreciate when we reflect on our existence.” In the 1988 novel, ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho echoes the sentiment of this statement, through his reformation of characterisation displayed within the fifth century tragic Aristotelian play, ‘Antigone’. Both composers explore the moralistic ventures of accepting fate as one’s means in their lifetime and achieving their destiny. Nevertheless, Coelho inverts Sophocles initial characterisation of Antigone, by which he propels his authorial intent, synthesising a stronger connection to contemporary audiences, making the manifestation powerful and enduring as context, values and traditions evolve over time.
The conceptual motivation of fate as one’s drive in life is showcased through an individual’s moral capacity to achieve their purpose. Antigone’s hamartia is centralised around her acceptance of fate, with the embrace of death as her final resolve. Throughout the entirety of the play, Antigone was depicted to follow the natural law to bury Polyneices and to go against Creon’s decree. Antigone’s reception of her fate is depicted through parallelism within her assertion of “And if I have to die for this pure crime, I am content, for I shall rest beside him; His love will answer mine.” mirrors that of Paul Collette’s lone attempt at uprising against the neo-Nazi ditactorship that conquered France during the twentieth century to the futility of her attempt. This crystallises Antigone’s dedication towards fulfilling her destiny despite her knowledge of the consequences of her actions. Through this, Sophocles demonstrates the significance of following fate to fulfil one’s destiny, a concept further amplified within Santiago’s motivations in ‘The Alchemist’.
Santiago’s journey throughout ‘The Alchemist’ solely relies within his motivation of finding his treasure, which is emblematic of his destiny. Within the novel, the concept of a ‘Personal Legend’ serves as a replacement for destiny, which is the only means that propels Santiago being able to live a satisfactory life. The protagonist’s devotion to this ‘Personal Legend’ is conveyed through Coelho’s use of imperative voice within “Don’t forget that everything you deal with is only one thing and nothing else … And, above all, don’t forget to follow your destiny through to its conclusion.” establishing the foundation of his higher cognitive process as he continues with his journey, overcoming numerous obstacles on the way. Overall, Coelho’s representation of his journey mimics the concept of destiny as a motivation in life, that is present within Antigone.
However, Sophocles’ altruistic characterization of Antigone vastly differs from Coelho’s distractible portrayal of Santiago. By employing the notion of arete, Sophocles was able to pioneer it as the virtuosic beauty that is the rationale of Antigone’s personal motivation. This presents her as extremely compassionate and benevolent, yet incorporates overtones of her strong-willed mindset, allowing her to stick by her purpose with no hesitation, as she sacrifices herself for the progression in her journey. Sophocles uses understatement in “No, save thyself; I grudge not thy escape. … for thou chosed’st life, and I to die.” which validates her self-sacrificing disposition and manifests her resolve of fulfilling not only her the natural law of honouring her deceased relatives through her dismissal of death as one’s end, but rather as a step in the process.
In contrast to this, Coelho has inverted Sophocles’ idealistic portrayal of Antigone as a magnanimous hero, by presenting Santiago as an individual who is an absentminded and weak-willed. Along the course of his journey, Santiago continuously receives assistance from those around him in times of distress caused by his ignorance, to allow for his character to develop. This promotes the realistic complexity to his character that is more suitable for contemporary societies. Coelho’s use of asyndeton in “No hope, no adventure, no old kings or destinies, no treasure, and no Pyramids. It was as if the world had fallen silent because the boy’s soul had … wishing that he had died, and that everything would end forever at that moment.” places emphasis upon his lack of will-power and loss of drive as a result of minor set-back. This presents to the audience the mechanics of his character as a more honest, vulnerable individual that contrasts the consistent hero of Antigone.
In conclusion, it can be determined that through both Antigone’s and Santiago’s personal journeys, they were able to perceive the true value of fate and achieve their destinies, despite the differences within their mentalities. This presents an ambition for audiences to consider, as stated by Santiago: “At a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie”
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