Hero’s Journey in “The Alchemist”
How it works
In The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, we read the story about a boy named Santiago who has dreams and visions about finding this treasure. The Alchemist can come across as a mythic, universally applicable story due to the use of the Hero’s Journey hidden throughout the book and all the stylistic strategies given. The book portrays an idea to follow your dreams, and listen to your heart which is exactly what Santiago does. The first stage of the Hero’s journey that we see is the call to adventure. Santiago had a dream and so he wanted to talk to someone about it, someone being the gypsy he meets. He doesn’t have much money so the gypsy cannot give him much time, but Santiago explains “the child went on playing with my sheep for quite a while” continued the boy, a bit upset.
Who is The Hero in The Alchemist
“And suddenly the child took me by both hands and transported me to the Egyptian pyramids” (Coelho 5). This dream was embedded into his mind which caused him to pursue what his dream was trying to tell him. Go to the pyramids. Next is refusal of the call, and we see how Santiago tries to come up with any and every excuse not to go because he is too poor and cannot afford a ticket, he is worried his sheep will be lonely without him, or simply because he feels its too far from where he is most knowledgeable, but then we see that he does in fact make it to the ticket window once and when asked if he could be helped, he says maybe tomorrow. “While standing at the ticket window, the boy had remembered his flock, and decided he should go back to being a shepherd.” (Coelho 11). We see how Santiago is having doubts about leaving the place where he is most comfortable and doesn’t want to seem as though he is abandoning his sheep because that is all he knows.
How it works
Moving on to the prologue, where the stylistic strategies begin, personification is the first one. We read about a man named Narcissus who used to sit by the lake and admire his own reflection, hence his name, he fell in love with himself unhealthily. He admired himself so much he got too close to the water and fell in and drowned. The lake weeps for the loss of Narcissus and when asked why, the lake responds with ” I could see my own beauty within the reflection of Narcissus’ eyes” (Coelho prologue). The lake is not human, it cannot actually talk or feel emotion therefore it was personified in order for us to justify why it wept. Another example of personification would be when Santiago is in the desert with the Alchemist and he explains why his heart does what it does. “But my heart is agitated.” The boy said. “It has its dreams, it gets emotional and it’s become passionate over a woman of the desert. It asks things of me, and it keeps me from sleeping many nights, when I’m thinking about her.” (Coelho 55). Here Santiago is realizing that like himself, his heart is part of the Soul of the world, where he and his heart were taught how to communicate with the sun, wind, and most importantly the desert, and his surroundings are seen as spiritual, not material.
Allusion is the next stylistic strategy. Allusion is taking dreams or visions and relating them to the real world. For this part of the book, the elder is explaining a story. “When the pharaoh dreamed of cows that were thin and cows that were fat, this man I’m speaking of rescued Egypt from famine. His name was Joseph. He, too, was a stranger in a strange land, like you, and was probably about your age.” (Coelho 45). Santiago is referred to as being Joseph. The cows were his flock of sheep. Saving Egypt from famine was because Joseph was able to interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh, Santiago is interpreting his dreams and trying to get to the pyramids and the tribe believes dream interpretation is a tradition.
By viewing these stylistic strategies, the Hero’s Journey and the different types of archetypes we see how the Alchemist can be viewed as a mythical, universal applicable story. Through the authors use of personification and allusion, we watch the book come alive. It gives us a feeling of ambition to follow our dreams the same way Santiago did no matter how many doubts you had.
Champlin, Nikola. “The Alchemist Prologue.” LitCharts. LitCharts LLC, 21 Mar 2016. Web. 24 Nov 2018.
Champlin, Nikola. “The Alchemist Characters: Santiago’s Heart.” LitCharts. LitCharts LLC, 21 Mar 2016. Web. 24 Nov 2018.