How does the point of view of the characters in The Alchemist influence the reader?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are six main characters in The Alchemist. I will list all six and talk about how they influence you and I through their beliefs and thoughts about life.

1) The Shepherd, Santiago.

Santiago is looking for his personal treasure near the pyramids of Egypt. Along the way, he meets people who either encourage or discourage him in his goal to fulfill what he comes to call his own Personal Legend. From Santiago, we learn determination, patience and courage to pursue the goals we are passionate about. Although his parents want him to become a priest, he chooses instead to be a shepherd. He does not want to be boxed into a life planned out for him, but chooses to seek his own purpose in life.

2) Fatima, the woman Santiago loves.

Fatima is the beautiful woman Santiago falls in love with. From her, he learns what true love is. When she hears that he is going to search for his own Personal Legend, for the treasure in the pyramids of Egypt, she tells him to go. She teaches him about the Soul Of The World, telling him that all who do not return become a part of everything in Nature; therefore, she is not afraid that she will lose him forever. Fatima teaches us to support those we love. Because of her courageous faith in true love, she is rewarded: the final words of the novel are a promise by Santiago, "I'm coming, Fatima."

3) Melchizedek, who inspires Santiago to pursue his Personal Legend.

He is a biblical character and refers to himself as the King of Salem. He teaches us that when we aim to pursue our dreams, the whole universe will conspire to guide and help us towards the realization of our goals. Coelho utilizes magical realism to bring out Melchizedek's teachings. Santiago's journey is rife with magical realism. Melchizedek shows us that we must be willing to pay attention to every detail in our quest to fulfill our vision/dream/goal, and that we must count the cost of every decision we make in the realization of those dreams. Melchizedek provides Santiago with two stones, Urim and Thummim, which tell him only 'yes' or 'no' in answer to his questions. Melchizedek teaches us that sometimes too much information may curb our desire to move forward: if we were to see all the obstacles in the way, we might not start at all. Interestingly, Umim and Thummim were the names of gemstones worn on the breastplate of high priests in biblical times. The two stones were used by the priests to divine the will of God. Here, Melchizedek is showing us that we need to seek wisdom if we would be successful in achieving our goals in life.

4) The 200 year old alchemist.

Like Fatima, the alchemist believes that our souls return to the OverSoul (Universal spirit) after death. This is the basis of Transcendentalism. The alchemist teaches us that connection with this Soul of The World will guide us unto the realization of our own innate power to fulfill the goals of our lives. Since the character of the alchemist relies fully on the literary device of magical realism to present underlying truths, we learn to look beneath the exterior to interpret the important message: we are stronger than we think, our God-given abilities more powerful than we give them credit for. The Alchemist teaches us that learning from experience is just as necessary as learning from instruction.

5) The Englishman who inspires Santiago to pursue truth through learning.

The Englishman shows us that we must not neglect book learning in our quest to find wisdom. His way of learning is contrasted with that of the Alchemist.

6) The Crystal Merchant who regrets his decision not to pursue his heart's desire in life, as does Santiago's father. (I group these two together; they are similar in their perspectives on life.)

Santiago's father and the Crystal Merchant both try to dissuade Santiago from his mission to realize his Personal Legend. The merchant advises Santiago not to pursue useless dreams and to be satisfied with a comfortable life. He is set in his ways and has lost all optimism and courage to charter new and unknown territory in life. Likewise, Santiago's father points out what he thinks is the futility of reaching for something he can never have. From these two characters, we learn what we become when we forget our aspirations and give up on our passions.