Referring to Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, is it possible to live a fulfilling life without ever achieving your Personal Legend?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist is about a young boy who first learns about Personal Legends from Melchizedek, the King of Salem. The boy represents all of us and the fact that we can all find our Personal Legends, or achieve our life's purpose. Sadly, many people do not fulfill their Personal Legends; and no, they do not realize complete happiness or joy if they don't. Coelho explains this theory in more explicit details in the 2002 introduction to the story. He explains it as follows:

"In the silence of our hearts, we know that we are proving ourselves worthy of the miracle of life. . . We start to live with enthusiasm and pleasure. Intense, unexpected suffering passes more quickly than suffering that is apparently bearable" (Coelho, vii).

The boy, Santiago, learns from the example of the Baker that social status and other vain glories of the world actually get in the way of achieving one's fullest potential. Melchizedek explains that Baker wanted to travel, too, but he decides to start his bakery instead and puts it off until he is older and has more money. This is a trap that many people fall into. They think they will travel later, and some do, but they put off finding their full potential in life in order to make a living. Making a living, though, is not the same as achieving one's Personal Legend.

Santiago even meets a girl named Fatima at the oasis and is tempted to stop his search for his treasure in order not to lose her. The Alchemist explains to him that the boy is merely being tested to see if he will continue on his journey's path.

". . . before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we've learned as we've moved toward that dream" (132).

The Alchemist also tells the boy that he would be happy for awhile if he marries Fatima, but after a few years, the fact that he never finished his journey would bother him and he would end up resenting her. At every turn, someone advises the boy not to give up on his dream or he will never know his true potential or true happiness.

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The Alchemist

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