What significant themes are presented in The Alchemist?

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I would say that a major theme that runs throughout the story is a theme about personal hopes, dreams, and fulfillment. Santiago is on a search for treasure and his own Personal Legend. Along the way, he meets with adversity. Whether it's desert bandits or something else, obstacles are constantly thrown in his path. Santiago is constantly impeded from obtaining his goal, yet the goal is important enough to never give up. This is also another theme of the novel. There is a theme of perseverance and patience. Santiago doesn't immediately get what he is searching for.  It takes him time to achieve his goal, and that sends a powerful message to readers. Good things can come to people who are patient and willing to work for it.  

Finally, it would be remiss to not mention the theme that's in the novel about spirituality and the natural world. Santiago is not just on a journey for wealth. He's also searching for a pure soul. In order to achieve his Personal Legend, Santiago must learn to tap into the Soul of the World. Once he is able to do this, he learns that all of creation is different forms of the same spirit.  

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What are the themes of Coelho's The Alchemist?

The enotes Study Guide on Coelho's The Alchemist lists the following themes for the novel.  I'll add a brief explanation for each.

  • magical realism:  not just as a literary technique, but as a way of existence.  The universe conspires to help one succeed.
  • numerology:  there are four elements, four obstacles in Santiago's way, three coins, three characters speak to each other in the caravan, etc.
  • patience:  Santiago learns it as a shepherd, in the merchant's shop.  One must not hurry or one might miss omens or signs.
  • perception:  Santiago fears gypsies because of what he's heard, and accepts the robber boy because he wants to.
  • religion/spirituality:  parallels to the Bible abound:  Jesus, Joseph, Melchizedek, who even appears.
  • water:  it can be either a positive or negative force; tears represent what one must endure.

In case you're not familiar with magic realism, the world presented is a realistic world in which the supernatural exists.  That may seem like a contradiction, but all it means is that supernatural events are included in a story that is otherwise realistic.  This is different, say, from a fantasy world such as Harry Potter's, or a science fiction world such as that in Star Wars.

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