This research examines the novel The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream by Paulo Coelho as an iteration of a quest myth, with the object of the quest being the imperative of self-actualization, or, as Coelho has it, fulfillment of a personal legend. The plan of the research will be to set forth the pattern of ideas in the work and then to discuss the means by which Coelho deploys Santiago's adventures to lend moral weight to those ideas and in the process validate Santiago's heroic stature.
The events of The Alchemist, which involve the hero Santiago in a quest for personal fulfillment, are consistent with mythical adventure as described by Campbell: "The effect of the successful adventure of the hero is the unlocking and release again of the flow of life into the body of the world" (40). While Campbell is referring to what could be called "world-historical" mythic heroes whose deeds redound to the transformation of the whole of human experience of the cosmos, he also references fairy-tale heroes, who, he says, "achieve a domestic microcosmic triumph [and who] . . . becomes the master of extraordinary powers" 38).
In The Alchemist, the hero's objective is highly subjective, ipso facto microcosmic in intent; how else can one describe what the author declares is the impulse to achieve one's Personal Legend? In a sense, Santiago is decidedly nonheroic in the beginning of the story. Even so, an important effect of Santiago's persistence in his quest amid multiple obstacles, some attractive and others dangerous, is the gradual getting of insight, something that has utility at both the micro and macro level of human experience. To put it another way, in his attainment of his Personal Legend--not least in his recognition of the irony implicit in where the promised treasure lay--Santiago transforms his simple life into the model of a wise and extraordinary life.
Coelho uses alchemy, the medi...