November 2, 2013
Following a Dream
“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting” (Coelho 11). Paulo Coelho has written an international bestselling phenomenon, also known as The Alchemist that follows a shepherd boy named Santiago through a journey to find his treasure. Santiago is lead from Spain to Egypt having to overcome test after test to follow his dream to his treasure. By pursuing what he truly wants with the help of several characters, Santiago evolves into a well-rounded individual by gaining knowledge through his travels. Coelho incorporates the use of helpers, a benevolent guide and dreams to exemplify that following a dream can lead to discovering new aspects about oneself and life.
To begin his journey, Santiago meets a wise old king, and a crystal merchant. The first of his helpers is the old king. He is introduced as an old man that simply wants to talk to the boy about what book he is reading, but later on claims he is the king of Salem. Accepting his statement as true, Santiago continues the conversation allowing them to eventually talk about his dream of the Pyramids. The king validates Santiago’s dream, but for a price of six sheep. Prior to leaving with his sheep he shares, “’The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon’” (Coelho 32). His message to Santiago reminds him that by following his dream he will witness beautiful sights and people, but that he should always remember the purpose of his travels. If he stays on the correct path then the oil on his spoon should stay where it is in the beginning. After departing, the king has lead Santiago in the right direction towards his dream, but has also taught him one of his first lessons about life in the beginning of his travels. In addition to the king Santiago meets a crystal merchant who becomes his boss for about a year. He gains knowledge of the Arabic language, gains a friend, and he also gains enough money to buy over one hundred sheep. Santiago is tempted to return home and forget about his dream, but the crystal merchant teaches him the expression of “maktub” meaning “it is written.” Being convinced he should continue to his dream Santiago reflects on himself by noting, “He was more confident in himself, though, and felt as though he could conquer the world” (Coelho 63). Overall, the king teaches Santiago a lesson about life while the merchant helps him learn new qualities about himself, but both of them guide him closer to his treasure.
Next in Santiago’s path is the alchemist, “…a man who understands nature and the world” (Coelho 140). He is the last character Santiago has contact with, and the one who guides him the rest of the way to the Pyramids. While on their travel of Santiago’s dream the alchemist teaches him lessons about life. During their journey the alchemist shares that Santiago’s only way to learn something is through action, relating it to religion and the existence of the world. He states, “…The existence of this world is simply a guarantee that there exists a world that is perfect. God created the world so that, through its visible objects, men could understand his spiritual teachings and the marvels of his wisdom. That’s what I mean by action” (Coelho 127). In summary, the alchemist shares that certain aspects of life cannot be understood merely through reason, but immersing oneself into what they do not understand to find what they are looking for. Later on the alchemist teaches Santiago to listen to his heart because by listening he will know its fears, wishes, and dreams. “The heart is alive. Keep listening to what it has to say” shares the alchemist, and that is just what Santiago chooses to do (Coelho 134). By listening to the alchemist Santiago’s heart tells him his strongest qualities which are “…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 learned to listen to his heart and never would have learned new aspects about himself. So, over the course of crossing the desert the alchemist accomplishes teaching Santiago a life lesson of why the world exists, and teaches him a valuable technique of being able to listen to his heart that knows all; all while following Santiago’s dream.
Lastly, Santiago learns at the very end of his journey where his actual treasure is due to a dream. He has met the king, the merchant, the Englishman, Fatima, and the alchemist, and the last to meet is a refugee that leads him to the gold. Beaten, weak, and nearly unconscious, Santiago hopes the refugees are done, but one returns with the greatest news by telling Santiago, “’You’re not going to die. You’ll live, and you’ll learn that a man shouldn’t be so stupid. Two years ago, right here on this spot, I had a recurrent dream, too. I dream that I should travel to the fields of Spain and look for a ruined church where shepherds and their sheep slept…if I dug at the root of the sycamore, I would find a hidden treasure. But I’m not so stupid as to cross an entire desert just because of a recurrent dream” (Coelho 163). By not following his dream the refugee has not fulfilled his personal legend, and therefore has not had a complete happy life. Fortunately for Santiago that is the best mistake that refugee has made. This is because Santiago slept at the place of the refugee’s dream, meaning he was by the treasure all along. On the other hand, in the beginning of the novel Santiago describes his recurrent dream sharing, “’…And suddenly, the child took me by both hand and transported me to the Egyptian pyramids’” (Coelho 13). He follows his dream until he reaches the pyramids of Egypt, learning that his actual treasure was the journey itself because it teaches him that by following his dream he reaches complete happiness and experiences true love along with having new friendships and clarification of his characteristics.
In conclusion, the author uses the old king and the crystal merchant, the alchemist, and other characters’ dreams to show how following a dream can result in discovering new information about oneself and life. For instance, Santiago’s helpers, the king and the crystal merchant, provide him support through lessons about the world and himself in order to help guide him on his journey. Additionally, Santiago learns, from the alchemist, that following his heart is necessary when trying to accomplish his dream. Lastly, happiness can occur when Santiago follows his dreams. Finally, learning about oneself is vital in order to achieve dreams and live a life of fulfillment.
Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist. San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993. Print.