Literature This interconnectedness is called the Soul of the

Literature is a powerful tool that serves
as moral guidance and fosters ethics and virtues. For centuries, philosophers
have said that the largest function of literature is to teach morality and to reveal
important philosophical issues. Roman poet Horace for instance, says that
literature should be “delightful and instructive.” In turn, Paulo Coelho,
author of The Alchemist, explores the
purpose of life through several philosophies and moral teachings in the novel. The
novel begins when protagonist Santiago, embarks on a spiritual journey towards fulfillment
during which the author reveals several teachings. He offers wisdom on the
interconnectedness of the world, the importance of living without fear, always maintaining
hope, following dreams and true love. Through the moral-philosophical approach,
the reader is able to better understand and appreciate The Alchemist as well as determine the moral and philosophical
lessons present.  

Everything
in existence is joined in unity by a spiritual force. There is a divine
connection between living and nonliving things, humans and nature, and
together, everything serves a purpose. This interconnectedness is called the
Soul of the World and it is the root of everything. The reason that alchemists are
able to turn any metal to gold is because it is the destiny of that metal to
become gold. Alchemists help elements realize their destiny much like the
Alchemist helps Santiago realize his own Personal Legend. Coelho acknowledges
this principle of unity when Santiago becomes one with the wind. To embody the
wind, he must be in harmony with the desert, sun, and wind and ask for help
from each element. The more connected that they become, the greater the purpose
is served. Later, while conversing with the sun, Santiago realizes that
interconnectedness is regulated by those and that which are connected, “It is
we who nourish the Soul of the World, and the world we live in will be either
better or worse, depending on whether we become better or worse” (Coelho 155). This
principle of unity teaches the reader that every action has a cause and effect and
that “every person on earth plays a
central role in the history of the world” (Coelho 163). All beings are governed
by the Soul of the World, however all people are a part of this spiritual union
and every individual is free to make choices that will in turn affect
themselves and others.

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Moreover,
choices and decisions must be made for action to be taken. Hesitation is a
limiting factor that separates those who dream a dream and those realize a
dream. An individual must have faith to realize his destiny. For instance, Santiago
dreams of traveling, so he leaves his regular life behind and becomes a shepherd
boy. He travels vast distances and sees beautiful cities and landscapes. His
faith and confidence lead him to where he wants to go. Santiago is comfortable
with his life when one day, he meets his Personal Legend who tells him he must
go “find the hidden treasure in Egypt” (Coelho 24). Initially Santiago is
hesitant to trust a stranger, but he has faith and Santiago realizes this is
his true desire. Santiago eventually finds his treasure and fulfills his
destiny. Alternatively, those who always hesitate will never realize their
dreams. Santiago works for a crystal merchant for a year while in Morocco and
learns that the merchant has never been able to fulfill his dream. The merchant
is a devout Muslim who dreams of going to the visit the Mecca, the most
important place in Islam religion, but his fear restricts him. When asked by
Santiago why he does not go to the Mecca, the merchant responds, “it’s the
thought of Mecca that keeps me alive. That’s what helps me face all these days
that are the same. I’m afraid that if my dream is realized, I’ll have no reason
to go on living” (Coelho 57). The moral lesson is that faith and initiative
lead to success. If action is not taken, there will be no result or change,
however those who do act, are able to realize their dreams.

Additionally,
living in the present is imperative to further grow and evolve as an individual.
One must not be afraid of the unknown because the unknown is already known by
the Soul of the World. One must not dwell on the past because it is over and
cannot be changed. In the novel, the crystal merchant uses the Arabic
expression maktub, which means “everything is written”, to explain to Santiago the
reason that nobody should live in fear (Coelho 61). Fear and worry of the
future or past are senseless as everything is set in stone. Likewise, Ileana
Marcoulesco, author of Free Will and
Determinism, also concurs that “everything that ensues is bound to happen
as it does and in no other possible way, thus, nothing in nature is random or
accidental.” The Alchemist explains to Santiago that one must focus solely on
the present. He tells Santiago “I don’t live in either my past or my future.
I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the
present, you’ll be a happy man. Life will be a party for you … because life
is the moment we’re living right now” (Coelho 87). Coelho’s moral teaching is
to live in the present and enjoy the journey of life. How people engage in the
present moment will directly impact their lives. One must embrace the atmosphere
and the Soul of the World and cherish every present moment. 

Everyone
must live in the pursuit of their individual dreams. People must listen to
their hearts as they will always lead them to pure love, happiness, and joy. The
Soul of the World assigns every individual a Personal Legend, a true desire,
that one must work towards to discover through omens and the language of the universe.
Once found, the individual must follow this dream to fulfill their destiny. In
the novel, Santiago meets with his Personal Legend who tells him his dream or
goal is to find a hidden treasure in the pyramids of Egypt. He also tells
Santiago that “to realize one’s
Personal Legend is a person’s only real obligation” (Coelho 24). This means
that if Santiago follows his Personal Legend, he is guaranteed fulfillment and
happiness as it is his ultimate purpose in life. Santiago chooses to
pursue his dream and he embarks on his journey. Eventually, after several
setbacks, Santiago finds his treasure. Coelho’s concept of following one’s
Personal Legend is also paralleled in Indian Philosophy and its religions which
supports Coelho’s idea of following one’s destiny. The Soul of the World may be
represented by Brahman the Hindu supreme being, the Personal Legend serves as the
Dharma or one’s destiny, and once the destiny is fulfilled, Nirvana is reached
which is a state of enlightenment (Hinduism Facts). This principle of following
one’s Personal Legend teaches the reader to passionately pursue one’s dreams
and to follow one’s heart.  Through
Santiago’s journey, the reader learns that if an individual follows their
dreams and their desires, they will live a satisfied and fulfilled life.

Throughout
the journey of someone following their dreams, it is inevitable that at some
point they will fail, or experience set backs. It is crucial for the individual
to stay confident and maintain hope even in the most difficult times, so that
they can continue following their dreams. Nothing worth having is easily
obtained and failure is part of the process. In The Alchemist, Santiago experiences several set backs that nearly
lead him to return back home. Along his journey he is robbed, attacked, and
kidnapped but he continues as he knows that the end will be worth the turmoil.
While talking to his Personal Legend, Santiago is told, “when we first begin
fighting for our dreams, we have no experience and make many mistakes. The
secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and get up eight times” (Coelho
11). This piece of advice served to be very beneficial for Santiago as he
continued his journey after facing numerous hurdles. This moral principle of
never giving up, teaches the reader that although one may be going through a
difficult time while working towards their dreams, things always get better if
one remains persistent. Through Santiago’s tenacious attitude, the reader
learns that for one to feel fulfilled and satisfied, one must work hard toward
their dreams and never give up.

As
a result of never giving up and always maintaining hope, true love is achieved.
True love is limitless, and it can overcome the hardest complications. When the
novel begins, Santiago is looking forward to seeing the beautiful merchant girl
once again however what he feels for the girl is merely attraction and not love.
For this reason, it is very easy for Santiago to forget the girl and continue
with his journey towards the treasure. In contrast, Fatima, the girl Santiago
meets while on his journey, is the love of his life and he even considers
ending his journey to be with her. However, Fatima does not encourage Santiago
to end his journey. Fatima’s love does not prevent Santiago from pursuing his
fate because she is a part of his destiny. The fundamental difference between
attraction and true love is that true love never stops one from living their
life to the fullest. When speaking of Fatima and Santiago’s love, Coelho
explains, “this is what we call love. When you are loved, you can do anything
in creation. When you are loved, there’s no need at all to understand what’s
happening, because everything happens within you” (Coelho 147). The moral
lesson of love Coelho teaches the reader is that true love has no bounds and
that it does not limit the individual nor their partner. True love can
withstand through all obstacles and can overcome any hardship.  

In
Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, the author
uses the spiritual journey of shepherd boy Santiago, to teach the reader numerous
moral lessons. With each passing hurdle or obstacle that Santiago faces, there
is a lesson to be learnt. Each lesson teaches the boy as well as the reader
that they must always follow their heart, follow their Personal Legend no matter
the difficulties, never let fear overcome their decisions, and to never lose hope.
Through the moral-philosophical approach, the reader is able to criticize the novel
on the basis of the ethical and moral values it teaches and better understand the
meaning of the story.