What is the main conflict in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho?

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I believe that the main conflict in Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist is Santiago's personal, inner struggle with completing his Personal Legend.  That internal man vs. self conflict is constantly bombarded with external man vs. man conflicts, but the main struggle deals with Santiago continually wondering if the journey is worth the trouble.  Santiago is met with all manner of obstacles as he travels to Egypt where he thinks a great treasure can be found.  Along the way he comes across desert wastelands, marauding bandits, and other life threatening obstacles.  He is left beat up and without any money several times.  Santiago is left multiple times wondering if he should continue on his journey or if he should just return home.  

There's a constant tension within Santiago in which he has to weigh the possibility of finding an actual treasure vs. the treasures and knowledge that he has already gained.   That is what I believe the central conflict of the story is. 

 

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The only issue with the answer above is that it fails to fully explain the main conflict by mentioning all four.  I will attest, then, that the main conflict is that of fate vs. will.  Now let's look at how this one main conflict is reflected in each of the elements of the story.

First, Santiago has to contend with the earth and the solar system.  Is it his fate to become one with nature?  Or is it Santiago's choice?  I would suggest the latter, therefore, Santiago wills it so in order to pursue his legend and legacy.  Next, Santiago struggles with temptations.  Is he fated to lack love?  Be weak?  Be lonely?  Be poor?  No.  Due to Santiago's own decisions, Santiago overcomes each negative trait. 

There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.

Third, Santiago comes across different people who give different advice.  Is it Santiago's fate to follow each one?  No.  Santiago listens intently to each and then makes the best choice according to his own will.

In these three ways, Santiago becomes the hero of the story.  In the conflict of fate vs. free will, Santiago chooses free will.  It is this choice that helps him triumph over fate.

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Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist has many differing conflicts going on throughout the story; but, the main one could probably be broken down to the battle between free will and fate. Coelho's fable includes man vs. nature, man vs. self, and man vs. man all into one complete package. First, Santiago must learn to listen to the universe, the earth, the wind, and even the sun in order to become one with nature. Second, Santiago must learn to overcome his own temptations to give up on his personal legend for things like love, weakness, loneliness, or lack of money. Finally, Santiago must take what each person advises him to do with his personal legend and decide whether or not it is for his benefit or not. In the end, Santiago must always make a choice when confronted with a problem or a trial--does he accept fate's decisions, or continue on no matter what obstacles are placed in front of him? By choosing to follow his personal legend with every decision, Santiago comes off the conqueror of self over anything else.

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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.

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What is the overall conflict in The Alchemist by Coelho?

The Alchemist is a journey of self discovery on which Santiago goes from Spain to Africa and back to Spain to find the fulfillment of the legends of his life. In Africa, Santiago trusts explicitly and has all his money and possessions stolen from him; shares a vision and finds himself mortally threatened; works and struggles only to find himself imprisoned and beaten to within a breath of life before he finds the clue that takes him back to beginning place. In a far more complex version of the Wizard of Oz mantra, "There's no place like home. There's no place like home," Santiago finds his quest for gold fulfilled, if not right in his back yard, at least in his own neighborhood and country. The Alchemist weaves together the triplet themes of discovering your true identity; believing in yourself with all your heart; and following your dreams against all obstacles.

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