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Transcript of The Alchemist
by Paulo Coelho
Fictional Story; Fable
Narrated by Paulo Coelho himself, from a third-person-point-of-view
In the Alchemist, Paulo Coelho uses a thoughtful, passive, slightly nostalgic tone; the tone of a calm storyteller.
-Original Edition: 1988
(Editora Rocco Ltd.;
shown on the bottom left)
-English Edition: 1993
(translated by Alan R. Clarke;
shown on the right)
The story is written in the past-tense; like the story being told or read by Paulo Coelho out to the readers-- yet it uses some present tense phrases in a few sentences, where he describes thoughts and notions (e.g. "..... As soon as the wind stopped, he was going to remove them from their commands, because true men of the desert are not afraid." Note the 'are' here, that represents the present tense, being used to describe something that is still present, like in this case, the fear of the desert in men).
IN THE STORY)
Santiago roams the fields of Andalusia (or, Andalucia) with his sheep; his life changes when he meets Melchizedek (the old king) in Tarifa.
Santiago then goes to TANGIER.
Santiago goes through the desert
to Al-Fayoum Oasis,
and, finally, the Egyptian Pyramids.
The whole story happens after the spread of Islam, as Egypt is shown as a Muslim area, but much before the era of modernization-- there is no mechanical transportation, but instead, the use of camels and horses, and Santiago travels most of the time by foot.
PROTAGONIST OF THE STORY
The protagonist in the story is Santiago, a shepherd from a small village, who pursues his dream of traveling, and is later made to realize to his true destiny of finding treasure at the pyramids, and has to follow it.
Santiago is faced with a conflict against nature and his own self-- to realize and follow his destiny, it is his own decisions, thoughts and nature, and, at times, fate that stand in his way.
The antagonist in the story is, firstly, Santiago himself. It his decisions and choices, his nature, his thoughts and actions, that coax him away from the his treasure. For example, when he gets mugged when he first comes to Tangier, he breaks down at the spot, and later decides to work at the Crystal Merchant's shop so that he can get money to buy back more sheep to replace the ones he sold, to return to his shepherd's life. Secondly, there is fate. Though the mugging gives Santiago the perseverance to follow his dream, it initially causes him to waver in his path-- the immediate effects fate had are seemingly jeopardizing. This can still be blamed on Santiago's nature again, though.
The rising action in the Alchemist takes place from the beginning of the book, when Santiago is first introduced to the readers, through his journey from the fields of Andalusia, to Tarifa, to Tangier and Egypt, to the Arabian Deserts, Al-Fayoum Oasis, up until the point when he is captured by the tribe. His journey and his meeting with the different characters in the book, that help him realize and pursue his destiny, and teach him many things about life and the world, are all part of the rising action as they lead up to the climax of the story.
The climax of the story is when Santiago converses in the Language of the World with the desert, the wind, the sun, and then, silently, the hand that wrote the whole universe-- the Soul of God. This is when he talks about love, the Soul of the World, and much of what he had learned; this is when the twist in the story takes place, as one would expect the climax to be when he reached the Pyramid and would not have expected any of this to happen. This is when he turns himself into the wind, or the Simmum, that blows through the desert, something that the Alchemist knew he would be able to do, a condition on which the tribal chieftain would let them go.
The falling action in the book occurs when Santiago and the Alchemist leave their confinement from the tribe, then when the Alchemist turns lead into gold, a quarter of which he gives to Santiago. It continues when Santiago finally reaches the pyramids, to be mugged again of the gold the Alchemist gave him, and then not finding the treasure, realizing that it is exactly at the place where the story started, something that his mugger told him unintentionally, without knowing, because the mugger, unlike Santiago was too afraid to follow his dreams. All the puzzles of the story then fall into place, as the conclusion and the end.
The story strongly conveys the theme of the importance of following a dream, as a strong fable. The theme it centers on is that one should do everything to realize their dream, and pursue it, because it is a part of their destiny; that one should never stop dreaming, because their destiny is the reason they exist, and because of MAKTUB-- "It is written".
There are quite a few motifs in the Alchemist, namely the omens that guide Santiago on his path to discovering the treasure. A very frequent omen is the word MAKTUB, which means, 'It is written', basically referring to the fact that all the lives and destinies of the people are written-- by the same hand, the hand of God. The word, when uttered, is an omen in the sense that it reminds Santiago that his destiny was written from before, and he has to follow it in one way or the other.
SYMBOLS IN THE STORY
FORESHADOWING IN THE STORY
The most prominent example of foreshadowing in the Alchemist is the title itself: 'the Alchemist'. A reader would expect the book to be about an Alchemist through and through, when it is the story of Santiago instead, a shepherd. The Alchemist himself does not appear in person till after at least half the book; his first mention is not even by Santiago, but an Englishman.
Another example of foreshadowing is near the beginning of the falling action, when the Alchemist gives a piece of gold to Santiago, telling him that, "Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time". This hints on Santiago being mugged a third time, which happens when he reaches the Pyramids and starts digging for his treasure.
The symbols in this story were basically the omens. These were what symbolized greater meanings, and directions for Santiago to follow. For example, the butterfly that Santiago saw while talking to Melchizedek (the Old King) symbolized the fact that Melchizedek was a good man, as butterflies are good omens. The stones Urim and Thummim were omens; they answered an objective question that helped Santiago make a decision. The increase of customers at the Merchant's shop was a good omen; it encouraged Santiago to work even harder to earn money. The Scarab Beetle was a symbol of God, and told Santiago to dig by the Pyramids for his treasure. Throughout the book are scattered such omens, which are the symbols used in the story.