Free Study Guide for The Alchemist by Paul Coelho

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The theme of oneís own Personal Legend recurs many times in the story. It refers to that which is your own dream or goal in life and is part of the path God has created for you. You have the free will to turn your back on your Personal Legend, but it is a decision which you could live to regret. Most people never achieve it because it is a journey filled with hardships and many turn back. For those who continue their search, the fulfillment of their Personal Legend is immensely satisfying and rewarding.

The theme of perseverance is also an important idea. Many times, Santiago finds himself wanting to turn back and itís only when he reaches deep within himself that he finds the strength of will to go on. It teaches us all about how good things come to those who reach out for them, not to those who wait! Life is a struggle no matter what path we may choose, but if we stay strong and continue on, the consequences are all good.

The theme of the Soul of the World is a theme which makes the reader think about how we are all connected in some way to each other, to the animals around, to the plant life, and to every element created by God. The Master Work is actually his creation of earth and everything on it and around it in six days. So we are all an element of his creation. Once we realize that, we can find our Personal Legend and understand the language of the world.

The theme of faith is also an intrinsic part of this story. Without faith that he could succeed and without the faith others had in him, Santiago would have been lost. Again, it is a message to us all about believing in ourselves and our part of the Soul of the World.

The final theme is very close to perseverance, but refers to the need to confront the four obstacles of life and overcome them. We first must overcome the voices that have told us from childhood that what we want to do is impossible; second, we must overcome love, i.e. recognize that those who truly love us want us to achieve our dreams; third, we must overcome fear of defeat or failure; and fourth, we must overcome the fear of realizing the dream we have fought for all our lives. If we can climb over these four walls, our treasure will be close at hand and we will have discovered our fulfilled our own Personal Legend.


This story is uplifting almost entirely through the novel. Even when Santiago stumbles or even falls on his path to his treasure, we know he will get back up again and persevere. We feel his pride, his satisfaction, and his triumph when he reaches the end of his journey and heads back to the oasis and the love that awaits him.

Paul Coelho - BIOGRAPHY

Paul Coelho was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and still lives in that city. He is much like his character, Santiago, the shepherd boy, in that he has followed a quest to be a writer and has met with much frustration throughout his early adulthood. He says he always knew that his Personal Legend was to write, but he was thirty-eight before he published his first book. He tried law school until 1970 when he decided to travel throughout much of South America, North America, Mexico, and Europe. He returned to Brazil two years later and began a successful career as a popular songwriter. He was imprisoned for a short time in 1974 by the military dictatorship then ruling his country. In 1980, he walked the 500 plus mile Road of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain where he achieved a spiritual awakening that he later described in The Pilgrimage. He published The Alchemist in 1988, a novel that explores the same spiritual awakening he had experienced. It has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide and has been translated into at least fifty-six languages. Other novels he has written - By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, The Valkyries, The Fifth Mountain, and Veronika Decides to Die - explore the different streams of our lives. He has won numerous literary prizes and he is a prominent speaker for humanitarian causes.

Awards for The Alchemist include:

The Nielsen Gold Book Award 2004 for its outstanding sales in the UK retail market.
The Corine International Award 2002 for the best fiction in Germany.
The Golden Book Award 1995 and 1996 in Yugoslavia.
The Super Grinzane Cavour Book Award and Flaiano International Award 1996 in Italy.
The Grand Prix Litteraire of Elle 1995 in France.


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