What is the central conflict of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho?
The central conflict for a story revolves around the main protagonist achieving a specific goal. The plot rises as the main character encounters obstacles that get in the way of him or her solving the problem, finishing a quest, or achieving said goal. The main character in Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist is Santiago, a young shepherd who must find his treasure and fulfill his Personal Legend. With these goals in mind, many obstacles arise to meet him as he journeys to Egypt where his treasure supposedly lies. Santiago first goes to a gypsy to help him interpret the dream that told him about the treasure and he discovers the central conflict through her as follows:
"You came so that you could learn about your dreams. . . And dreams are the language of God. When he speaks in our language, I can interpret what he has said. But if he speaks in the language of the soul, it is only you who can understand" (12-13).
After he tells the gypsy of his dream, she determines that it actually is in the language of the soul; this then sets the conflict within Santiago himself. Thus, the central conflict is man vs. self. Santiago must overcome his doubts and fears while also learning about the Soul of the World. He must decipher omens in order to interpret the next move to make on his journey. And all the while, he must not stop, turn back, or give up on finding the treasure and fulfilling his Personal Legend.
Melchizedek, the King of Salem, also informs Santiago that the central conflict is within himself as follows:
"Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. . . But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend. . . To realize one's destiny is a person's only real obligation" (21-22).
No one but Santiago can discover his Personal Legend. No one can keep him on his path to discovery except himself. Only he is on this personal journey, so only he must fight the doubt, fear, or temptations to end the journey in order to achieve his goals.