What were the pros and cons of Santiago’s personal journey in The Alchemist?

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

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The disadvantages of Santiago's personal journey is of course the suffering, challenge and discomfort he experiences. There is no sense in which this can be ignored, and it is important to remember that what Santiago does is to step out of his comfort zone and to sacrifice being in a place of security for striving to achieve his Personal Legend. It is clear that this is not always a happy experience. However, at the same time the overwhelming message of the text is that what he gains by risking everything is worth far more than he ever had in the first place, and this is of course the major advantage to his personal journey. It is important to remember the crystal merchant and how he acts as a salutory warning to Santiago: he has decided not to risk what he has for some future and intangible gain, and as a result lives a frustrated life, as this quote demonstrates:

But you are forcing me to look at wealth and at horizons that I have never known. Now that I have seen them, and now that I see how immense my possibilities are, I'm going to feel worse than I did before you arrived. Because I know the things I should be able to accomplish, and I don't want to do so.

Santiago's example of willing to risk everything, and suffer discomfort and instability in order to achieve his personal dream is one that acts as a rebuke to the crystal merchant. Although he has gained great wealth and a measure of security, he lives a frustrated and futile life, because he has seen how "immense" his possibilities are but has done nothing to explore them. Although there are significant disadvantages to Santiago's journey therefore, in the suffering he experiences, what he gains through that journey is of far greater worth than what he sacrificed and the negatives he experienced. He, unlike the crystal merchant, has had the courage to take that risk, and it is clear at the end of the book that this is a decision he does not regret.


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