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Comment on the strengths and weaknesses of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

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ds6 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted January 5, 2013 at 3:03 AM via web

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Comment on the strengths and weaknesses of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 5, 2013 at 7:10 AM (Answer #1)

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Arguably in this text the strengths can also be considered weaknesses, depending on the stance of the reader to the self-help, quasi-spiritual theme of this book. This novel is very strong in some senses, as it presents a coherent spiritual view of the world through the description of the Soul of the World which incorporates all nature into one whole. This Soul of the World has created a "Personal Legend" or some kind of ultimate desire for every single object in the universe, whether animate or inanimate:

...whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it's because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It's your mission on earth.

The goal of every object is therefore to achieve their Personal Legend, which involves connecting with the Soul of the World and becoming purified, which leads to perfection. The application of this to all of the created order strongly infers that humans are united with nature and share one spirit. This is a pantheistic view of life that points towards a unity between man and nature that allows Santiago to communicate with his horse and also to work with the desert to succeed in his quest.

Such a view of life has its strengths in terms of offering a coherent spiritual vision of the world and helping readers to apply the message of this book to their own lives, in particular through focusing on their own Personal Legend and how to achieve it. However, arguably, this could be also considered a weakness. The book's theme smacks too distinctly of a "self-help" philosophy that sounds very attractive but bears very little correlation to every day life and the challenges humans face. It presents a spiritual approach to the world that makes a grain of sand equal with a human being in value, as both share the same spirit. Such a view of the world leaves more questions than it provides answers, and it rather "fuzzy" and indistinct.

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