Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Comparative Theme Group, will change name when you pick...


Group members:

Michaela I.
Alinne D.
Mary N.

Book choice: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Paulo Coelho has a blog. I think it might be nice if you referenced it and maybe even framed some conversations around his topics--but make sure you also write about the book. This is a pretty quick and easy book to read, so you should also force yourself to search a bit for outside material to read and discuss--that way you can also build your theme.

41 comments:

Mary N. said...

Hey guys!
So, I am really interested in finding two literature pieces that utilize the same concept, in which we could compare the different purposes and the different usages by the authors. It would be cool with me if the geographical settings are different, also, since it would make it more interesting.

For example, why would an author use "winter" as a setting in Boston to symbolize love and peace when another author uses "winter" in Kansas to symbolize death?

I think that any concepts would go with me: I just love them in general.

Let me know what YALLS think.

Mary N. said...
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R. Gallagher said...

If you all pick that theme, like winter, or "the road", or whatever--I can make some suggestions.

Mary N. said...

It appears as though my group is MIA, though.

And unfortunately, I do not have any of their numbers.

Mary N. said...
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Mary N. said...
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Mary N. said...

Sorry about the deleted comments: My laptop lags so it posted my comments twice, so I only deleted the duplicated ones.

Michaela I. said...

My bad.Sorry for responding so late Mary. I'm basically open to any idea for a theme. What I'm about to suggest may be reckless but maybe we can just choose a random book, find a reoccuring symbol or theme in that book and then base our second book choice on the first book's theme. I will finish this post later because I'm in a study and the bell is about to ring.

Mary N. said...

haha I love it, Michaela.
I am all for anything, really, too. We can choose a book we're all interested in, and base off of what concept we analyze there, we'll pick our second book.

R. Gallagher said...

Y'all were talking in class today about a "funny" book. Here's two ideas (that are short enough to accomplish for this month). As I Lay Dying by Faulkner (at least I thought it was funny; I think it's supposed to be) and Cat's Cradle by Vonnegut (he has others too). There's also Shakespeare's comedies (one of which is being performed here at school) and more Kafka. I think Catch 22 might be too long for this assignment, but you could pick for the next book. I am also going to do a run of funny plays in a couple of months.

Mary N. said...

I searched up a plot summary of "As I Lay Dying" by Faulkner, and it seems to be really interesting...as this family in the story seems to be really complex. I feel as though complexity is good, since we're analyzing a concept. The more, the better. In addition, there seems to be many contrasts of different aspects: such as of love and lust (from what I read in the summary),of right and wrong, etc.

The site of the summary: http://www.bookrags.com/notes/aild/SUM.html

The cool part is while the book revolves around the idea of a "screwed-up" family, it still has comedic aspects to it (which could make this reading really FUN).

So I'm down for this book!

Pretty Lady said...

Mary, NO pleaseeee!!!! NO Faulkner..
But I liked your suggestion that perhaps we should pick a book first, then pick a second book based on the first.

I was thinking "The Alchemist" By Paulo Coelho... he's a brazilian author; wrote the book in 1988.

How 'bout it group?
=)

Mary N. said...

Alinne talked to me about it in class, and I am all gung-ho for it.

Sup with you, Michaela?

Michaela I. said...

Lol "gung ho". I researched it a little and I'm cool with it.

Mary N. said...

Here's the dealio:

"The Alchemist" is 196 pages long. That would mean 40 pages per each blog by our settled dates.
I think it'll be interesting if we can somehow reference each part to what Paulo Coelho posts on his blogs; his beliefs would definitely influence his texts. As Mr. Gallagher stated, this would definitely help us in finding the theme of our book.

Mary N. said...

Here's a post commenting on Coelho's blog:

"Everyone has a turning point, a moment where everything can change for better or for worst. If you feel comfortable, please share your experience here."


The "turning point" is obviously a universial concept (something we can focus on while reading), referring to an event in life that marks an important change in one's fortune, person, etc. "The Alchemist" focuses on a boy who faces a life-altering experience when he dreams of finding treasures. However, it actually is ironic because the boy, at the end, finds out that the treasure is actually at the place he originally left from.

So... what I am thinking is that we can focus on the concept of a turning point, in which in "The Alchemist," it's ironic (in my opinion) while in our second book it may be truly a turning point.

The second book that I think we could read is also by a foreign author: Chang-Rae Lee. It's called "A Gesture Life." It's basically about an elderly man reflecting back on how he had to adapt to new lifestyles. The concept of a turning point would definitely appear in this fiction.

Paulo Coelho and Chang-Rae Lee definitely grew up differently and under dissimilar traditions and beliefs. It would be interesting to see how they utilized the concept in their texts. Let me know what you guys think.

First post of "The Alchemist" will be tomorrow!

Mary N. said...

First impression:

So, the “nicks and crannies” first, I suppose. Coelho writes very simplistically. He doesn’t go much into details about setting and events. Just, “looking for water and food, at dusk, the broken down church…” His sentences are also very terse, very straight-to-the-point. He’s definitely a Hemingway and not a Faulkner in syntax and diction, but a Faulkner as he lays out the scene, the situation, the symbolism for his audience right away. So far, it has been an easy read; it’s not very dense or very slow.

The moment I began reading I could tell that the text was going to reference the Bible many times. I believe that Brazil is a very religious country, so I am not surprised Paulo Coelho alluded to the Bible. However, this takes place in Spain. Anyways, for example, just the setting alone that starts the book appears to be allusions: at dusk, with a herd, a church, a gate, etc. Furthermore, sheep follow Santiago wherever he goes. That’s a really interesting piece of detail: It reminds me of Noah’s Ark when the animals follow Noah, knowing a flood will occur. This here could foreshadow something life-changing will occur, and these sheep know it. As a result, they stalk Santiago.

Another thing that I noticed was the aspects employed by Coelho in this text. He describes scenes and characters very simplistically that it truly reminds me of biblical texts. Throwing this question out: Does anyone see any traits of Jesus in Santiago? He could definitely be a Jesus figure. For example, he’s a shepherd who is wise and intelligent beyond his age (he reads many books), travels often (and then returns back to the church), drinks wine, etc.

As you can tell, I’m just throwing out different concepts we can concentrate on while reading. I will definitely post with deeper insights into “The Alchemist,” but I really want to narrow down on a concept so I could jot specific notes while reading. The turning point and the Jesus figure are two that I found so far. We could even do “the journey” as Santiago travels a great deal.

Mary N. said...

Post: pages 1-47 (Part One)

This is adding onto my post about my first impression with a few more in-depth thoughts:
I found myself really hooked onto this story by Paulo Coelho. I actually want to keep reading, but I have to make my post on the first part of the story first. I have a hunch that I would really enjoy reading another text by Coelho. Perhaps for our second book?

I want to touch upon the idea that Santiago may represent the Jesus figure. Before we read about Santiago’s desire for a merchant’s daughter he met a year ago, we understand that he loves his flock of sheep: they represent everything he owns and lives for. They are the reason for his ability to travel the world as he has wanted since childhood. However, upon recalling that girl and feeling a desire to stay in one place, he all of a sudden thinks about slaughtering his sheep and how he controls their lives. Santiago expresses his disgust in thinking this way, but he can’t manage to control how he thinks. In addition, he ends up selling his sheep to follow his dream. This reminds me of when we read, “The Bible of Mark:” the scene in which a dying girl touches Jesus’ attire and he begins to lose his ability to “wow” people. Despite what Jesus says and does, people still conspire against him. So, as a result of one girl, their lives changed dramatically.

Another point I would like to discuss is the concept of following one’s heart no matter what stands in the way. On page 5 of Coelho’s website, he blogged about the heart: and how it is the birth of all knowledge of oneself, where God sees from. Omens can definitely be the heart’s instinct of a situation. The omens that Santiago is constantly being reminded of by the king from Salem, indirectly of course, could symbolize the trust of his heart.

Also, in the introduction of the text, Coelho points out four conflicts (in which one follows the other) that he believes stand in the way of following one’s dreams:

1. The idea that what we want to achieve will not be possible is embedded in us since childhood.
2. Love obstructs us from following our dreams as we are afraid of hurting our loved ones by abandoning them.
3. The fear of failing hinders us from striving to meet our dreams as we don’t want to suffer with disappointment.
4. The fact that it IS possible to achieve what we dream of makes us feel guilty if others could not do the same thing.

What I notice in “The Alchemist” is these four conflicts are being faced by Santiago. As a child, his father had told him only the rich could travel the world and see what existed. Yet, Santiago’s heart desire to expand his perspective drove him to buy a flock of sheep; thus he becomes a shepherd. Next, Santiago expresses his comfort in having his sheep around: they have become what is usual to him. As a matter of fact: they have become his only friends, his only loved ones. Yet, with courage and with trust of his heart, he sold half of his flock (knowing that they depended on him) to a wise old man in order to gain insight on how to achieve his dream of finding the treasure. As Santiago faces more challenges from thieves, he keeps an optimistic mind that propels him to move forward with his dreams.

R. Gallagher said...

Good job Mary, hopefully the rest of the group will chime in soon and ring the bells.

Pretty Lady said...

OMG! I just wrote my entire blog, but my computer completely crashed on me!! ='(
Here it goes.. again.

My first impression to the book is totally different than what I expected it to be! While reading the introduction, I was in awe at Coelho's detailed explanation of what a person's purpose here on earth was and what one had to do to achieve his dreams/personal callings. In the introduction Coelho came off as very philosophical and knowledge-ful, and I expected the story to be infused with difficult words, complex sentences, and outrageous ideas about reaching your dreams. However, he completely surprised me with his simple syntax! I find myself rereading passages to see if really understand what's going on, or to see if I missed the true meaning of the passage.

Coelho's story is also not what I expected, because while reading the introduction I assumed that he would write about the predominant Catholic religion and it's significance in making your dreams reality. But instead, Coelho writes of a higher power, but not about the Christian beliefs. It took my by surprise that Coelho was not Catholic (not sure why), but his story is sensational. I feel a bit hesitant to accept what Coelho is attempting to convey (again, not sure why), but I feel I can fully relate to this shepherd boy and his desires to achieve a dream he almost cannot have.

In reply to Mary's first blog:
Mary I like your observations between "The Alchemist" and the Bibile.. they completely flow over my head! (LOL). But now that you mention it, Jesus did go to Egypt at the age of 12, but the Bible does not fully elaborate on it. And I don't see the resemblance, so far, between Santiago and Jesus... here's why:
I see Santiago as a little boy whose merely just beginning to learn about the world around him. He comes off to me as a boy who needs to be told what to do, instead of a man who knows what to do (like his decision to go to the Dream Interpreter and listen to her and the King). His desire for books makes him smarter, but not necessarily the best, brightest bulb that can teach older people (or doctors like Jesus did). Santiago is a shepherd; Jesus was a carpenter. Santiago travels for his own benefits, to fulfill his own desires; Jesus traveled to spread the Gospel. And lastly, Santiago seems a bit obsessed with the whole wine drinking situation (he drinks everyday!), whereas in the Bible Jesus does not drink once.
For now I do not think Santiago is like Jesus, but in the end I am expecting him to be more like the Christ figure.

I'd like to point out Coelho's choice of names:
Melchizedek (which is mentioned in the Old Testament) is Hebrew for King of Righteousness/King of JeruSALEM; and Santiago comes from the Hebrew name Jacob which means He grasps the heel/supplanter, and Santiago is also recognized in Spain as a patron saint. (I looked up the name information on google.)
I think this means that Melchizedek can be trusted, and even though Santiago appears to be a smart character, he will have a decline because of a common flaw.

That's it for now..
be back shortly!

Mary N. said...

Responding to Alinne’s post (Post One, Part B):

Alinne, great job on researching the names! This information definitely confirms the fact that Coelho references the Bible throughout “The Alchemist.” I found it to be really interesting, almost a “wow” factor. Coelho basically lays out the characters and their true intentions for us right away, as we are introduced to their names. What I notice, after reading what you pointed out for the names, is that Coelho doesn’t give his characters names. Or rather…Coelho doesn’t introduce any character who are not important to the overall text. So far, we know of Santiago and of Mel, the king: whom are two trustworthy people. The gypsy wasn’t given a name, but Santiago also said that gypsies were deceiving human beings who lied to sell their products. This makes me wonder if only the named characters in the text are the important, all-worthy, characters that teach us about life. For example, Santiago teaches us how to overcome obstacles to achieve our goals while Mel shows us that the Universe will always help us out if we learn to read signs all around us.

After reading what you pointed out as the differences between Santiago and Jesus are in the first part, I definitely agree that he does not represent the Christ figure yet. I do believe that Santiago will rise to become a Christ figure by the end of the story, when he finally achieves his dreams after years of challenges and doubts. He is, without a doubt, becoming more knowledgeable of the different societies he comes across. He gains insight into the meaning of living, of people, and of the world in general as he travels his journey to find the treasure he always dreamt of. Everyone he meets along the way teaches him something about life and about achieving goals: the conflicts each individual faces makes him aware of his own. Thus, Santiago realizes that the obstacles in his way only test him. By viewing these obstacles as positive experiences, he is able to continue on to Egypt. In addition, he also teaches them about their own lives as well, while he strives to realize his dream.

This sparks an idea and I would like to propose a question: We are led on to believe that Santiago’s dream is to find the treasure. However, do you believe that his dream is something hidden behind this treasure one? If we think back to “How to Read Literature like a Professor,” the chapter on quests informs us that an obvious quest is presented to lead to a deeper one, in which the character usually discovers aspects of himself that he has not seen at the beginning of the text. Taking this way back to the very first few pages, Santiago told his father that he wanted to travel the world. The dream of finding a hidden treasure in the Pyramids of Egypt allows Santiago to travel and to expand his perspective on life and goals. Could that be the TRUE dream Santiago is actually pursing after?

Mary N. said...

Post Two: pgs. 47-79
Part A:

In part two, Santiago becomes discouraged from continuing his journey to find the treasure due to the obstacles he faced along the way. He lost the money he earned from selling half of his sheep, trusting a man whom he thought was going to show him the way to the Pyramids. Santiago ends up climbing a hill to find a man who sells crystal as his trade. Reading his omens well, Santiago decides to stay in order to gain enough money to buy a flock of sheep again (although he decides to continue his journey by the end). The reason why I believe Santiago chooses to use that money to buy a flock of sheep at first is because of the comfort level they provide him with. He understands what it takes to become a successful shepherd and to gain trust from his flock. The idea of traveling across the desert to Egypt is a foreign one, which causes discomfort and fear. It’s natural for human beings to steer towards their comfort level. Coelho talks about this in his introduction: conflict number 3.

Another part I found really intriguing was the man who sells crystal as his trade. Although he wasn’t given a name, he taught Santiago lessons about achieving his dreams. This man reveals to Santiago of his desire to travel to Mecca, which resulted in the crystal business that would provide him with the large sum of money required. As Santiago comes up with new ideas to expand the business and to profit even more, the man becomes more hesitant to follow suit. The idea of having everything he needs to travel to Mecca scares him (Coelho’s conflict number 4). The man has lived in comfort knowing what his dream is and how he is going to achieve it when he has enough money (which he never did until Santiago joined the business). However, when the opportunity came, he felt hesitant: the idea of achieving the dream seemed more appealing than achieving it itself.

This experience teaches Santiago about why anyone would ever sit back and choose to not act even when one has enough to achieve his dreams. In the end, he decides to continue his dream of finding the treasure. He becomes acquainted with another man who studies alchemy. This Englishman understands the Personal Legend, the omens, and the Soul of the World. He teaches Santiago about how everyone is one with the Soul of the World: the concept of ONE.

The concept of one is so interesting to me. Santiago comes to understand every language because they were ONE language: a universal language. He comes to understand that the world conspires as one to help him achieve his dreams. Also, he gets taught that the world has ONE SOUL that connects everyone living in it, sharing it. Therefore, everyone is ONE.

This concept comes up throughout “The Alchemist” many times. I wonder what you guys think about this? It seems important in some way.

Mary N. said...

Post 3: Pages 80 - 104
Part A:

As I become more involved into “The Alchemist,” I start to think about Coelho’s purpose in choosing to write a philosophical text teaching about achieving one’s dreams. So, it made me want to do some research on Coelho’s life to see if he had any life experiences that inspired him to inspire other people to chase after their own Personal Legends.

Apparently, Coelho in his younger years, was a member of an anarchist group in Brazil, in which was imprisoned for for an amount of time. This group traveled the world to discover secret societies, oriental religions, and mysticism. According to him, he experienced some sort of supernatural event that told him to leave the group. He eventually adopted the religion Christianity. Throughout his years as an author, he published a few books, of which were unsuccessful. However, he decided to make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. After that life-changing journey, he achieved in writing a best-seller that was translated into nearly 56 languages. I also found out that “The Alchemist” was written based on two different texts: “Tale of Two Dreams” by Jorge Luis Borges and “The Book of One Thousand and One Nights.”

Paulo Coelho said in an interview that he always knew his Personal Legend was to write. Yet, he chose to travel the world to discover societies here and there first. In addition, he experienced supernatural experiences that told him what to do (to leave the anarchist group). Thus, Coelho went back to writing and finally produced a best-seller. He definitely shares similarities with his character, Santiago. Santiago began out traveling the world. However, he ended up recognizing his Personal Legend of finding the treasure at the Egyptian Pyramids. In part three, Santiago saw the two hawks as an omen, telling him to leave the group at the oasis since it was going to be attacked by the war soldiers. Santiago, then, returns to find his Personal Legend waiting for him to discover. I didn’t really figure out why Coelho had written “The Alchemist” yet, but I found some similarities between the character and the author.

Anyways, onto the actual context of part 3! The Englishman begins to give me a negative impression of him. At first, he appears very wise and very knowing of the world and its symbols. However, as I continue to read, I start to see his conceit and his pride in possessing all of this knowledge. At one point in the story, he even feels disappointed because Santiago, after having read his book, expressed what he learnt in rather simple words. The Englishman assumed that Santiago was too simple (since he is a shepherd) to understand the true content of the books. Yet, if anything, Santiago reads the world more for what it is than the Englishman can. The Englishman follows the rules of the book in order to achieve his dreams while Santiago follows the instinct in his heart, which he feels and sees the world from. As a result, Santiago comes out to be the one who understands the Universal Language and the omens of the world. This makes me wonder whether the Englishman’s result of not achieving his dreams of finding the alchemist was due to his conceit and his pride. Although Coelho did not describe his as pompous, I did not feel like he is a humble character at all. Thus, the Englishman does not meet the alchemist he traveled the world for. I wonder if Coelho is telling his audience something about being a human being? Is he suggesting that one must be humble, yet knowing, in order to achieve one’s dreams? Even if the Englishman followed every rule in the books, he still could not find the alchemist he longed to meet.

In this part, we’re also introduced to the second conflict that people faced in achieving their dreams: love. Santiago falls in love with a girl from the oasis named Fatima; they both knew that they were part of each other’s Personal Legend at the moment they met (I guess this is where the idea of ‘true love at first sight‘ came from). Santiago immediately begins thinking about the pains of a woman whose husband travels the world. He expresses a desire to stay in the oasis to marry her and to stay with her all though life. Yet, Fatima knows and understands what Santiago must do in order to achieve his Personal Legend. She insists that he continues on his journey, and she will be completely happy to await his arrival home. Thus, Santiago chooses to carry on with his plans with Fatima in mind. Here, Coelho shows that love can hinder one’s decisions about achieving one’s dreams. However, one’s loved one should be able to understand and to know what one must do in order to achieve one’s Personal Legend.

To wrap up, I have a few questions:
What do you think Coelho’s purpose in writing “The Alchemist” is?
If the English could not achieve his dreams due to his nature, will Santiago since he is humble, yet wise?

Mary N. said...

Post 4: Pages 104-138
Part A:

In part four, Santiago further struggles with the idea of leaving his newly found love, Fatima, behind in order to continue his dream of finding the treasure. She does not beg him to stay behind (as I thought would have happened when Coelho made the two characters fall in love) but she rather understands his Personal Legend and his quest to pursue it. Yet, Santiago feels the pull towards her and considers multiple times throughout this section, and the previous one, to live within the oasis for the rest of his life. With persuasion from the alchemist, whom he meets after revealing the signs of the desert to the elderly of the oasis, he is able to leave Fatima behind and to continue on his dream.

I want to comment on the roles of the gender Coelho produced in “The Alchemist.” It is said that the women of the oasis understand their roles as females: they must remain in the oasis while their men went in search of their Personal Legends. Supposedly, the Personal Legend of these women is to find men to spend the rest of their lives with. That is what Fatima reveals to Santiago when he suggests that he stays with her and abandon his journey. The females definitely do not play much of a role in Coelho’s “The Alchemist.” The only other female we meet is the gypsy, who has a reputation because of her occupation. The males in the story: the crystal merchant, Santiago, the alchemist, the Englishman are all allowed to pursue their Personal Legends and all have some sort of heroic tale to tell. I am wondering what you “guys” think about this, since we are an all-girl group. If Coelho was to reverse some roles in this book, would it have the same effect? A woman is usually looked down upon for abandoning everything she owns, and especially her family, to pursue her dreams.

Another topic that I found really interesting was the idea that good and evil does not exist: it is always about others who are chasing after their Personal Legends. In “The Alchemist,” a war has erupted in the desert, and there are two groups fighting. No one group is evil or is good, though: God (Allah) sides with the both of them. According to the caravan leader, this is the reason why these wars last years to settle; they are being aided by God. This brings me to Coelho’s blog on page two, in which he states that “no one is entirely good or evil, that is what the warrior thinks when he sees that he has a new opponent.” However, weren’t we always taught that there would always be the good guys and the bad guys? Didn’t society teach us that without yin and yang, the world would be completely off balanced. Thus, a paradisiacal world ceases to exist. Coelho introduces a new world philosophy that completely contradicts the most popular one right now (in my opinion and in my experience).

The last thing I want to touch on is how the Universe will test us right before we accomplish our Personal Legends. According to the alchemist in the story, the Universe will throw everything at us to test whether we have truly learned the Soul of the World. This is when most people become discouraged, as they are thrown doubts, insecurities, and internal conflicts. Apparently, it is the heart that reveals to us these discouraging ideas. By listening to it, we understand what we are afraid of happening if we are to continue in the pursuit of our Personal Legend. Only when we tell ourselves that everything is worth it in the end will we have the courage to continue on. I was once told to listen to my heart and to write for ten minutes every night: it doesn’t matter what the topic is, just go with the flow and write whatever comes to “mind.” In doing so, I have come to realize my fears and the roots of my doubts and insecurities. This makes me draw a conclusion that only when we listen to ourselves can any of our problems be solved: asking others for their opinions and advice only steer us to more confusion.

Pretty Lady said...

This blog is about Coelho's blog...

I found Coelhos' blog on the heart to be utterly interesting.
"What do you associate with the heart?"
I personally believe that the heart is the center of emotions, not the center of being. I see the mind superior to the heart... example: being in love; if something happens and the relationship doesn't work out, the mind would have to set itself to getting better, overcoming the emotional mess, and changing the feelings. If it were up to the heart, it would hang on to that one person forever. The heart is deceitful and its emotions are constantly changing (I always believe emotions to be backstabbers... therefore, my heart is a backstabber; it's always forcing me to feel something I do not want to feel). Like the Bible says, and Coelho restated, "Whilst man sees with his eyes, God sees the heart," meaning that a heart is the center of emotions--it holds the deepest and most hidden emotions, ones that humans themselves cannot comprehend.

Tying this into the book "The Alchemist," Santiago is a good example of mind over heart. During the second half of the book, he struggles with wanting to go back to his sheep and become a shepherd again--he loves doing that. However, logically speaking, that would not be the right thing to do. He owns he has a treasure to find, and as much as his heart is telling him not to, his mind (more rational) tells him to find his treasure. Ultimately, finding the treasure would be better for him in the long run.

Perhaps, then, I associate deceit, emotions, and most importantly, the mind with the heart. To have a stable person one must feel, but one must also know how to control his emotions if it begins to get out of control.


And just to through this out there:
On page 7 I love Coelho's quote: "It’s no use asking for explanations about God. You might hear lovely words, but deep down they are all empty phrases. Just as you can read a whole encyclopedia about love and not know what it is to love."
I love and I completely agree with it... I've had many people come up to me and ask about God. I'll attempt to explain as best I can, but most of the time the person walks away with a confused expression, or worse... scared!

I don't agree with his next quote, however: "Certain things in life were made to be experienced, but never explained." I believe that if it's worth experiencing, it's worth explaining. It goes for everything: emotions (good and bad ones), experiences, the presence of a higher power, etc. I do believe in a personal calling, like Coelho states in the book "The Alchemist," and I believe that like the king who said that that world will conspire to help you reach your treasure that the world--the people, the problems--will help you grow into the person you ultimately want to be. Santiago faced many dilemmas to reach his treasure; but his desire for the personal calling was greater than his problems.

Could anyone explain how the story "Beginning at the Beginning" ties into the blog about God... I was somewhat confused. Is he saying that to know if God (or love) is real, we must take baby steps to find our answer? (Similar to Santiago in the sense that he was taking baby steps to reach his treasures.)

Mary N. said...

Post 2: Part B

Responding to Alinne’s post: Yeah, I definitely agree that the heart plays a huge role in “The Alchemist.” Many times, Santiago becomes confused and unclear of whether he should continue on his journey to find the treasure. Most of the times, it is his heart that is speaking fear, doubts, and insecurities. He worries about amounting to nothing in the end, about losing everything he has gained so far, and about failing. One must overcome these discouraging emotions in order to continue on the quest to find achieve one’s Personal Legend. As Coelho said, the quest to find one’s Personal Legend is so important that the outcome is not really significant: it is more worthy to understand what one’s Personal Legend is and to pursue it, then to completely ignore its existence and to live in deceit.

I also feel that Santiago has mastered the skill of “mind over heart.” He has shown that he still has determination and perseverance, even in the face of thievery and war. Despite what his heart tells him about fear and insecurities, Santiago pushes on and fights back to understand the Soul of the World. As a result, he becomes one with the world and understands its omens and its messages.

I want to comment on Coelho’s quote on his blog: "Certain things in life were made to be experienced, but never explained." In “The Alchemist,” Santiago continuously asks questions to try to find some sort of explanations. However, he is always told that “it is all written by one hand” and “Muktab.” According to the story, there is not an explanation for why the world is the way it is and why Personal Legends speak out so strongly. The omens are omens and they report messages of the Soul of the World. Why should there by an explanation? Santiago experiences the different aspects of the alchemist world, and there is no explanation why. Things happen, and he accepts it and takes it to the best of his advantage. There is no need for an explanation: The Soul of the World conspires with you when you are achieving your Personal Legend.

Mary N. said...

Post Five: Pages 133-167
Part A:

In part five, the alchemist says to Santiago, “’When you possess great treasures within you, and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed” (134). I never really thought about this concept, but it is completely true. If we think about the true geniuses society has ever known, such as Einstein and Socrates, they were thought of as insane. They were laughed at and were shunned by all the “normal” people. Yet, Einstein and Socrates knew their Personal Legends and they were achieving them. Their obstacles were society itself. Unlike Coelho’s story, though, society demands experiments, data, and proof for every idea proposed. In “The Alchemist,” we are told that certain things happen that don’t need to be explained; they just occur and exist. However, society is never satisfied with an explanation simple as that: proof is always required. Coelho’s idea that certain experiences do not to be explained (as Alinne had pointed out) conflicts with the idea of knowledge. Society teaches us that we should acquire as much information about everything as possible: it’s about possessing knowledge. However, Coelho suggests that we only need to experience things and do not need an explanation for them at all. How do you guys feel about this?

The alchemist also explains why some people never get to meet alchemists and never get to turn lead into gold even when that is their Personal Legend. He states that not many succeed in becoming an alchemist like he has, even if that is their true life-callings, because they are after one thing: gold. The objective of becoming an alchemist is not to turn lead into gold, and then to become wealthy. An alchemist learns the omens of the world and understands them. He is one with the Soul of the World, and he helps other in realizing their Personal Legend. Thus, if a person desires to be an alchemist solely to turn lead into gold, he will never become an alchemist. I think Coelho is teaching his readers a life lesson about “choosing” what their Personal Legends are. It should be sincere and genuine and truly what we want to do; it shouldn’t be about wanting gold and purely gold.

I want to talk about the Englishman for a little here. The reason why he has not been able to find the alchemist is because he wanted the alchemist to teach him everything about turning lead into gold. As a result, the Englishman becomes discouraged but does not let this emotion stop him. He settles down in the oasis and builds a hut with a stove, in which he tries to turn lead into gold. Through this process of trying to transform lead into gold, he will learn to understand the Soul of the World. Thus, I believe that he will become an alchemist like his Personal Legend told him.

One last point: Santiago finally arrives at the Pyramids, and he digs and digs but cannot find treasure. He gets beat up by the war men, since they are looking for gold that would shelter them for awhile. To Santiago, that appeared as the end of his journey. His Personal Legend was to find the treasure, but he failed once he realized that there was no treasure at the Pyramids. Most people would have been discouraged at that point, where they would give up their Personal Legend entirely and come to a realization that they would never be able to achieve it. However, if one is like Santiago, who is determined to stay alive during the beating (the last obstacle faced by a pursuer of Personal Legend), then one will see the last omen that will reveal one last step to achieving one’s dreams. Thus, Santiago hears one of the war men’s dreams, and understands where his treasure is: at the broken-down church he originally left from. He returns to find a treasure full of gold. His Personal Legend has been realized, and he has learned the ways of the world along with it.

“The Alchemist” was really philosophical; it made me think about life many times while reading. I really enjoyed the book, and I am so glad Alinne suggested it to the group.

=]

Pretty Lady said...

After reading “The Alchemist” I got the feeling that even though the Personal Legend is the ultimate reason for living, the real task is attaining, or getting to that Personal Legend; the real contentment comes from perusing that goal. Along the way, we see Santiago growing in maturity and wise-ness, and we see that it’s only because he put his mind to find the treasure. If King Melchi had told him exactly where his treasure was, then his Personal Legend would not have been fully reached. Growing, learning, and sharing experiences are the most important lesson to be learned in reaching the Personal Legend. The purpose of reaching a Personal Legend is to experience. And this is hard, because people get caught up in never changing or doing something that will keep them in one place forever.

After reading, I also got the impression that traveling is very important in one’s life. Coelho writes about Santiago constantly traveling to experience and see new ideas, points of views, and ways of life. The purpose of traveling according to the book is to add a sense of purpose to your Personal Legend. If we just figured out our Legend and then never pursue it, life would not be as fulfilling and exciting. Coelho appears to be saying that everyone has a Personal Legend, and it’s up to every individual to set their minds to the task of knowing what it is and going through obstacles, hardships, and challenges to grow and mature, so that when he finally reaches his goal, he will be mature enough to handle the responsibility of having it.

Some questions I have:
- Why doesn’t he give his characters names?
(attempting to answer my own question)
Perhaps Coelho doesn’t give his characters names, because that would pull away from the fundamental purpose of the book. Giving names requires doing investigations about each man picked, and that would digress the audience from the importance of the book. Names would also
Also, I noticed that the only people that got names were King Melchi (higher power in Santiago’s life), Santiago himself, and Santiago’s soul mate, Fatima. With only naming three characters, Coelho could be pointing out that to reach one’s Personal Legend all you need is three people: yourself, a higher power you believe in and are inspired by, and a soul mate to help you and support you to reach the goal. In a way, the more people you have close to you, the harder it would be to reach your personal goal—emotions would always interfere.
- What do you think makes this book so different, and successful, from other books that encourage reaching for your dreams?

Mary N. said...

Post 3:
Part B- Responding to Alinne’s post:

I never actually thought about the Personal Legend and its actual role in life. I think you made a really great observation in “The Alchemist.” It is true that the emphasis is placed on the journey to achieve one’s Personal Legend rather than achieving the Personal Legend itself. There were many times in which Santiago questions whether he should continue the JOURNEY to find his treasure, not whether he should find the treasure. Also, Fatima also stresses the importance of a man’s quest to find his Personal Legend. She does not concern herself with the treasure, but with Santiago’s journey there. Another great point you made is that the experiences of the journey are what makes a person. These experiences help Santiago learn the ways of the world, in which he utilizes to help him achieve his dreams. So I do agree with you that the Universe throws obstacles in the way of people going after their Personal Legends to help them mature and experience so that the success won’t seem undeserving and without work. It’s true that if one does not work hard for something, then that something does not mean as much.

In an attempt to answer why Coelho does not provide his characters with names, I also do believe that characters’ names would distract the readers from the sole purpose of the text: To go on the journey to achieve one’s Personal Legend. If Coelho were to provide us with names, we would be concern with who is who, and who said what. It doesn’t matter who said what; the only important aspect is what was said about experience, life, and dreams.

I also liked how you drew the conclusion that Coelho seems to point out that there are only three important beliefs we need in our life: A higher being to believe in, yourself, and a loved one by your side. It does seem that the more people you have by your side, the more emotions you feel. You would be attached to more people than you have to be, and that would make it harder for you to leave everything behind to chase after your Personal Legend. Santiago had God to believe in, in which he asked for reassure on a daily basis. He had Fatima, whom he sought to stay alive for in order to return to her side. Most importantly, he had himself to believe in and to listen to. No one could make his decisions for him.

Michaela I. said...

While reading the first section of the novel I noticed that perhaps Coelho is questioning religion. He seems to be questioning religion in the sense that he is doubtful about its use in finding God and personal fulfillment. On page 10 the narrator reveals one of Santiago’s thoughts about religion: “I couldn’t have found God in the seminary.” This shows how structured theology and structured religious instruction may not allow a person to find God, therefore stressing that one must make a personal, freer effort to find God. Coelho also seems to criticize religion when the narrator mentions the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that was in the dream interpreter’s room on page 11. The woman interprets the dream the best of her abilities and then asks for ten percent of Santiago’s treasure. The atmosphere in the woman’s house doesn’t mesh with the religious images that are present. The woman not only lacks a sufficient interpretation but then greedily asks for a treasure that hasn’t even been discovered yet. She is a somewhat shady and greedy character that relies on supernatural perhaps magical methods. So to have religious figures around, the author, in a way, devalues religion.

Coelho expresses much social commentary in this section. The narrator describes on page 16 how people think they know what is best for others yet never for themselves. This message is definitely relatable to today’s society and gives the novel a philosophical quality. He again criticizes society on page 23 when the King of Salem describes how society establishes false connotations about people and how these connotations stop people from fulfilling their dreams. Overall it seems that he is trying to stress ideas of individualism and fulfilling one’s own expectations rather than those of society.

Going along with the theme of society, the theme of maintaining an image is prevalent as well. On page 19 Santiago doesn’t want to ask where the kingdom of Salem “fearing that he would appear ignorant”. Santiago also made up stories to impress the merchant’s daughter which we find out on page 17. Coelho is establishing a theme about image perhaps in order to express its negative effects later in the reader. As of right now Santiago is characterized as a person who feels pressured to maintain and image in order to be accepted and to protect his character.

To respond to Mary’s first post before I read your post I too thought it would be interesting to read another of Coelho’s novels. The only problem that may occur is that it would be hard to contrast techniques and writing style if we use the same author. Anyway I definitely noticed that Santiago represents a Christ figure. The flock of sheep lead the reader to this conclusion, but also the way the King of Salem sends Santiago on a journey which reflects how God sent Jesus to Earth. This again emphasizes the religious undertones of the novel so far. To respond to Alinne I too noticed the name thing and again the names reflect the religious theme of the novel.

Mary N. said...

Post 4:
Part B: Attempt to answer my previous question:

“Could [travel] be the TRUE dream Santiago is actually pursing after?”

After having finished “The Alchemist” and having some time to think about the text, I really do think that people’s Personal Legends lead them on experiences that change them for the better. It really isn’t about achieving your Personal Legends, but whether you have the courage to pursue after it or not. This courage results in maturity, confidence, and knowledge. Throughout many times in “The Alchemist,” Santiago questions whether he should continue trying to find his treasure. Doubts of whether he would find it or not, of whether he would lose everything just to find nothing, and whether it was worth it or not bothered his heart to no end. So often he finds himself wanting to take the easy way out and stay back in the oasis with Fatima and to become a shepherd again (what he knows best). However, the courage he finds in his heart from the support around him (the alchemist and Fatima) drives him to continue on his quest to find the treasures. Along the way, he becomes more observant, noticing all the omens around him, and taking in the experiences the Universe provides him with on his journey. As a result, he learns the Soul of the World and is able to converse with it.

Also, I notice that the entire book is dedicated to the journey Santiago undertakes in order to find the treasure at the Pyramids. It emphasizes the four conflicts faced by pursuers of their Personal Legends, the knowledge one must learn in order to read the world correctly, and the courage one needs to continue. Only on the last two pages does Coelho talk about Santiago finding his treasure. Surely the structure of “The Alchemist” suggests that the journey is much more important than achieving the Personal Legend. After all, the alchemist constantly stresses that if one dies in pursuit of his Personal Legend, then it’s a worthy death.

So I do believe that there are two Personal Legends: The journey and the treasure itself. The treasure is only a disguise for what needs to be undertaken by a person. The treasure tells Santiago he must travel across the desert to the Pyramids in order to find it. This journey enlightens Santiago of the Universe as he faces and overcomes obstacles, doubts, insecurities, and hopelessness. So the first Personal Legend that the World gives us is the one we try to fight for. That fight enables us to learn and to mature, the real Personal Legend. Does that make sense?

Michaela I. said...

Blog 2 ,Pgs. 48-79

First I’d like to express my opinions of the novel so far. The novel is full of philosophical meaning and deeper messages that explore issues in life. The problem is that these messages are too obvious and cliché for my taste. It is apparent to the reader what the Personal Legend is meant to represent, one’s true destiny, the destiny that will provide ultimate fulfillment. The theme of following one’s dreams without allowing anything to deter the person, is simply too obvious. One several occasions the narrator and other characters will say profound statements or adages like “Sometimes, there’s just no way to hold back the river” (59), meaning that sometimes people cannot stomp out their desires. The people that Santiago is encountering seem a bit too wise. These proverbs that are being used hither and thither don’t give the reader much of a challenge. As a reader I want to be given the chance to decipher the message.

Another point of irritation is that there are too many of these profound themes to follow, including following one’s dreams, destiny and fate, beginner’s luck, change, listening to nature, omens, and the universal language. I guess all of the themes are interconnected but it sure is overwhelming for me as a reader to try and comprehend each of these themes. Also, it seems like Coelho is trying to achieve too much, he’s trying to get too many messages across. He should have limited the number of themes and symbols he used. But that’s just my opinion; maybe I’m missing his point…

To Mary, you mention the theme of oneness. I interpreted this “oneness” to mean individuality meaning oneness with oneself. That being said, I do see what you’re saying. It does appear that Coelho is unifying nature, God, and people. This concept does clash a bit with my post on section one because I interpreted Coelho to be denouncing societal unity in the sense that individuals shouldn’t assimilate to society. I may be confusing assimilation with unity by using these terms interchangeably. Switching gears, Mary’s point on the crystal merchant, is interesting. The merchant serves as an example of someone who has put his dreams on hold and has reached a comfort zone without reaching his dream. The merchant teaches Santiago this lesson. Later when Santiago convinces him to follow his purpose in life, the merchant experiences great success. Again this shows the benefits of leaving comfort zones in pursuit of greater happiness and success. The namelessness of the merchant emphasizes that he is simply an example and allows the reader to focus on the deeper message that he reveals.

Mary N. said...

Post Five:
Part B: Responding to Michaela’s post

I totally missed the comments Coelho makes about society in “The Alchemist.” I definitely think you touched upon it really well. Society definitely gives everyone a set of rules to follow, a list of what is right and what is wrong, and a code of morality, which is all unstated but known. Santiago abandons his sheep, his occupation, and Fatima in order to achieve his Personal Legend of finding the treasure at the Pyramids in Egypt. If he has lived in our society, he would definitely be put down for leaving everything behind in order to achieve his own dreams: he would be labeled “selfish.” Society tells us we must be selfless and must always put others first. However, how can one achieve one’s personal dreams if one constantly cares for others?

I further agree that Coelho criticizes society for putting too much weight on image. I didn’t notice this before but he definitely makes comments here and here about the idea of upholding an image. Just as Michaela pointed out, Santiago cared about appearing “ignorant” in front of a King. However, Santiago has been ignorant at that point: he did not understand anything about the ways of the World nor did he understand what he needs to do in order to find his Personal Legend. If the King hasn’t seen right through Santiago’s façade, then Santiago would not have learned about the journey he must undertake. Thus, he wouldn’t have matured and experienced life the way he was able to in the quest to achieve his Personal Legend.

After all of this, I want to go back to what is the purpose of “The Alchemist.” I feel as though Coelho is showing his audience the true importance of one’s dreams is the journey to achieve it. (Responding to Alinne’s previous post) He does this successfully through a narrative, in which he connects to his reader by touching on universal emotions: doubt and fear faced by all who has ever tried to achieve one’s dreams. He gives us a character, Santiago, who is challenged by conflicts as he goes on his journey. The alchemist, who exists through the majority of Santiago’s journey, gives him life lessons that he learns from. We also take what the alchemist says to heart as well, as we all have moments where we failed at achieving our goals and have felt doubts and insecurities. What stops us from trying to achieve our goal again is the fear of failure we once experienced.

I really enjoyed this story over all. =]

If we all decide that “The Alchemist” is a story about a journey (funny since that’s what Mr. G used as an example of a concept), we could choose our second book based on a journey.

Michaela I. said...

Blog 3, Pgs. 80-104

In this section birds, especially hawks are mentioned. After doing some casual research, I found that hawks were frequently used in Arabia for hunting and in ancient Egypt they were directly related with the human soul. This is interesting because in The Alchemist Santiago’s soul seems to be in accord with nature including the hawks which serve as omens and the hawks help him to “hunt” down his dream. Changing topics, in this section Coelho appears to criticize love. He pits love against one’s Personal legend. Although the Englishman mentions that without love dreams would have no meaning, it is apparent that Coelho also wants to express that lave shouldn’t stop person from achieving their dreams. This becomes clear on page 97 when the Santiago thinks, “Love required [the shepherds] to stay with the people they loved”. Since so much of the novel is based on the idea of movement in achieving dreams, I concluded that Coelho is criticizing love that holds are person back from their goals, love that creates a premature comfort zone.
Another topic I want to address is the setting, specifically the setting of this section. The arid desert is contrasted with the lush oasis. The oasis is located in the center of the desert, at the center of chaos. There is war and uninhabitable conditions in the desert. The oasis in contrast, is a war free zone where people have settled. Therefore I’ve concluded that the desert represents the hardships that stand in one’s way on the journey to their dreams. The oasis represents the comfortable zone where people remain due to fear of facing hardships to achieve their goals.

Responding to Mary’s third post, she mentions “The Englishman follows the rules of the book in order to achieve his dreams while Santiago follows the instinct in his heart…”. This is a great observation. This conclusion was totally over my head, as I couldn’t really figure out the role of the Englishman. Coelho is using the Englishman to compare to Santiago, which in turn compares the methods used to reach one’s goals. This message could be interpreted to mean that using other’s interpretations and information (which is symbolized by the books) is less successful than following one’s own heart. In response to Alinne’s third post, you make a good point when you say “The purpose of reaching a Personal Legend is to experience”. We therefore can say that the experience is symbolized by “the journey”. I agree with Mary’s suggestion, perhaps we can focus on this theme when choosing the second book. Alinne’s brings up another interesting point: one only needs three persons to achieve their Personal Legend. It’s a creative philosophy and is a bit radical but I think that Coelho is laying out that suggestion so that we as readers can apply it to our own contexts. Not to be facetious, but this novel is similar to a motivational speaker. Maybe that is the mood that Coelho wanted to achieve.

Michaela I. said...

Blog 4, Pgs. 104-138

The alchemist arrives riding on a horse dressed in all black. Due to the religious undertones, I immediately related this scene to the Book of Revelation in the Bible, specifically the part about the four horsemen. Because this book is full of religious allusions, I decided that it maybe this is what the alchemist in black symbolized, but honestly I don’t know how to connect the idea any further than that. In the Bible the four horsemen are indicative of evil and hardship. The alchemist on the other hand is Santiago’s guide and is a righteous, wise character. Perhaps the alchemist is related to the horsemen and the Book of Revelations in the sense that he reveals his wisdom to Santiago and he indicates the beginning of imminent hardships on Santiago’s journey. This connection may be a bit of a stretch but I though it was worth mentioning. Oh just remembered, to back up this argument on page 132 the narrator says, “It is said that the darkest hour of the night came just before the dawn”. This reflects the idea of hardship during the apocalypse that the Book of Revelation mentions. Then after this time of turmoil, eternal paradise will be achieved.

Love is brought up again in this section. Coelho points out that love, although it seems like the ultimate treasure, may be a false dream. Santiago argues that Fatima is his greatest treasure and the alchemist rebuts by saying, “She wasn’t found at the Pyramids…”(115). Since Santiago’s treasure is at the Pyramids, there is no way Fatima was truly the treasure. On page 120 the alchemist then says that “…love never keeps a man from pursuing his Personal Legend. If he abandons that pursuit it’s because it wasn’t true love…the love that speaks the Language of the World”. Here, the idea that true love allows personal fulfillment to be reached first, is stressed.
Coelho separates the idea of life and fate. These two elements are often seen as the same: one’s life is one’s fate. Here Coelho defies that belief. The alchemist tells Santiago, “Later, we simply let life proceed, in its own direction, towards its own fate”. So it seems as if life will just roll by when a person choose to allow it to do so. The difference between life and fate is that a person can choose their fate by taking control and taking action, in the same way that Santiago is reaching his Personal Legend. If a person doesn’t take some control then life will take control and lead the person to another, perhaps undesired, fate. It is also interesting that Coelho separates life from the person. Generally, we think that life and a person are the same thing or at work in unison. Here Coelho separates them to show that we must strip away every part of our being to understand our true “Personal Legends” or destinies.

To add a quick note, on page 135 when Santiago asks who the heart helps the alchemist responds by saying “…they do help children, drunkards, and the elderly, too”. All of these groups have one thing in common: they are all naïve to a certain degree. Since the heart dictates the emotions maybe Coelho is saying that the naive allow their emotions to dictate their choices or their lives. Just a thought.

In Mary’s third post she makes a thought-provoking point. I noticed the role of women in the book but I chose to not give it much thought. To answer her question, the book would definitely have a different effect if some of the gender roles were reversed. Women appear to have simple, similar, and trivial Personal Legends in the book. All the women of the oasis have the same goal while the men seem to have more dynamic dreams. After all of the talk about not letting anything stop one’s personal legend, it does seem that the book becomes hypocritical when it discusses women’s dreams. Also, I agree that there is definitely a double-standard in society. Women are somewhat berated for abandoning the family to pursue her dreams.

I find a lot of the themes in Coelho’s book contradictory. Mary mentions that “asking others for their opinions and advice only steer us to more confusion”. While I can see how this is apparent in the book, especially because asking for advice can steer someone looking to achieve his/her Personal Legend in the wrong direction. I mention in my first post that the idea of individualism is present throughout the book. At the same time Santiago meets and gets advice from several characters on his journey. He uses their advice to gain his own personal success. Since both sides of the argument are present, Coelho may be trying to say that listening to advice is helpful and necessary as long as it doesn’t detract from one’s Personal Legend.

Michaela I. said...

Blog 4, Pgs. 138-167

In this section Santiago finds his treasure. It happens to be at the ruined church, the exact place where the story started. This definitely emphasizes the idea that the journey was the more important than the treasure. Santiago learns so much important philosophical information on his quest, information that he would have learned if he didn’t set out to get his treasure. If he would have been informed about the location of the treasure from the beginning then he would have had no need to take the journey. Therefore he would have not gained the valuable knowledge that he learned along the way. He would have also missed out on true love. An significant question to consider is: What was Santiago’s the Personal Legend, the gold treasure or the wisdom that he gained along the way?

As for my opinion on the book and the ending, I did enjoy reading this novel despite some elements of the book that I disagreed with and disliked. The book effectively keeps the reader’s attention due to its mystical quality and suspense. The journey allows the reader want to keep reading in order to find out what the end of the journey has to offer. Overall, I found this book interesting and appreciated its use of mystical themes.

To address Mary’s post about the books purpose, I think we can all agree that the most obvious purpose concerns the journey to one’s dreams. She mentions, “I feel as though Coelho is showing his audience the true importance of one’s dreams is the journey to achieve it”. I totally agree. All of the little themes of the book combine to form this all-encompassing theme. In one of my previous post I mentioned my conclusion and overwhelmed feeling due to the abundance of little philosophical themes. Although I still feel that there were too many little themes to keep track of, I do now see that they all contributed to create the importance of the journey. I also agree with Alinne when she says that the journey allows the adventurer to mature in order to handle the treasure of their Personal Legend. Along Santiago’s journey he learns a lot about handling money which in turn allows him to be able to handle having the treasure. Like Mary said, it’s funny that this is the theme that Mr. G suggested; it was as if we took our own circular journey in search of a theme while reading this book.

Michaela I. said...

I'd like to take this opportunity to make a public apology to you two about being so late in posting. So, I’m sorry for leaving you guys hanging, that was really messed up for me to do. I'll make an effort to do better with the second round of book club.

Pretty Lady said...

I would just like to elaborate on a few points:

Responding to Michaela’s blog about the setting… Coelho’s contrast between the desert and the oasis is a way to point out that one can never get too comfortable with their environment. If a comfort level is reached between a persona and their surroundings, then their Personal Legend cannot be attained, because to reach a Personal Legend one must go through experiences and trails so that they are well equipped to handle their treasure (a Personal Legend is not giving to those who are weak or lazy at soul, because they will not use the treasure wisely). The desert definitely represents the hardships of the tests and trails; the dry and exhausting journey to become a strong person so that one can reach their Personal Legend; the isolation of comfort; and the desert also represents the “storm before the sun” theory that before you receive a gain or victory in life, you will go through suffering to make the gain worthwhile.

To Mary observations about the gender roles in the book: OMG… I didn’t notice it at first, but now that you mention it I would have to say that I feel some bias towards a certain gender. Perhaps Coelho is saying that females are part of the backbone to helping a male find his Personal Legend; females aren’t meant to have a Personal Legend, but are meant to play a great role in supporting and inspiring her male partner in finding his Personal Legend. (Just a random thought: I once read online that “Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes” and this gender role bias reminded me of that saying!) =) Throughout the story the role of woman were to inspire Santiago to continue to peruse his dreams, so I would think that finding and reaching one’s Personal Legend and finding a soul mate/a support or inspiration go hand-in-hand. Perhaps Coelho is saying that you cannot find your Personal Legend (gentleman) if you do not have the backbone of the Personal Legend herself.

And lastly, Michaela brought up the two Personal Legend idea, and though I thought it was a good idea I would have to disagree. I believe Coelho is trying to convey that there is only one Personal Legend, but to attaint a Personal Legend one must go through those trails of difficulty and determination to reach the Personal Legend. Having the treasure in your hands is the goal, but reaching the treasure is where the mystery lies. The process of reaching the treasure is different for everyone; each person gets there trails according to what they need to grow and become strong enough. I do think that reaching the Personal Legend has more than one step, but altogether I see the Personal Legend as one.

Mary N. said...

Hey guys!

So, in class we came to the conclusion that we wanted to either read "Siddhartha" or "Snow Country." I researched a bit on Siddharta and I feel like the journey concept is right on. The book is almost like that of "The Alchemist," in which a character undertakes a journey to achieve his dream. The best part is that the book takes place in India about an Indian boy. It would be very different from the setting in "The Alchemist." The only iffy factor is its length: it consists of only 122 pages and we agreed we wanted something lengthier and deeper to read.

The link to Siddhartha on wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siddhartha_(novel)

"Snow Country" would be definitely a change from "The Alchemist" as it does not necessarily focuses on the concept of a journey, I don't think. however, the plot summary does say a thing or two about travels and paid female companionships along the way. Stephan said the book consists of about 170 pages. So it'll be almost the same length of "The Alchemist."

Here's the link to "Snow Country" on wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_Country

Personally, I don't mind reading either. I'm opened to both suggestions. Let me know what you guys think!

Pretty Lady said...

I was thinking about the gender roles in the book and the thought that a woman’s Personal Legend is to find and support a man’s Personal Legend came to me. Suppose that a woman’s real Personal Legend is to be in love and follow her husbands’ goal… would that mean if she tried to find another Personal Legend she would be unsuccessful and discontent?...

Throughout the book Coelho repeatedly hits the thought that there is a universal language. On page 77 he writes: “The boy noticed that there was a sense of fear in the air, even though no one said anything. On e again he was experiencing the language without words… the universal language.” Coelho conveys that the universal language is abstract; it cannot be spoken of heard. I believe that Coelho is saying that the universal language must be felt (emotions)—love, sadness, compassion, anger, loss, etc. (and death as well).

On page 78, last paragraph Coelho writes: “When you want something with all your heart, that’s when you are closest to the Soul of the World. It’s always a positive force.” This also ties into the universal language, because happiness is a universal language—something everyone strives for. Also, Coelho shows that deep down, even though Santiago appears to not want to go get his treasure because of the obstacles, he really wants to (“with all your heart”). This definitely shows that a heart is the most unknown place; a secret to even its owner.

Michaela I. said...

So I checked out the links that Mary posted and it was so weird how similar Siddhartha and The Alchemist seem to be. This could pose a challenge when comparing the two, but at the same time the religions in the two books differ, allowing for a point of contrast and analysis. I am more interested in reading this book than Snow Country, because I'm curious to see how similar it really is to The Alchemist. So Siddartha gets my vote.