The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is simple yet moving. Coelho’s writing shows that an author doesn’t have to use 10-dollar words to create a rich world. Instead, Coelho uses simple language to detail a journey which inevitably consumes the imagination and conveys the power of the heart and soul.
At the story's start, the protagonist, Santiago (mostly referred to as "the boy"), is a mere shepherd who travels from town to town selling his sheep's wool. During the day his mind is preoccupied by the thought of a woman. She is the daughter of a merchant who buys wool from the boy, and the boy is eager to see her again. But there is more to Santiago than juvenile crushes and the mundane. When night comes and he shuts his eyes, visions of pyramids and treasure haunt his mind. This is where the adventure and Santiago's transformation truly begin. We see him make a terrifying choice in the next few scenes: security with his sheep and the prospect of courting the merchant's daughter, or, risk by selling all of his sheep to fund a journey to uncharted territory for a treasure that might not exist. This choice creates a parallel between Santiago and the reader. When the possibility of great gain presents itself, are you more likely to stick to the status quo or go in search of life’s greatest rewards?
As the book continues we see Santiago transform from a naive boy to a wise man. Santiago sold his sheep in order to embark on his journey, but his money is soon stolen and he is left to sleep in the street. Again, another parallel between the protagonist and the reader: when life makes things difficult do you turn and run, or keep pursuing your dream? Santiago goes on to create a new path for himself by helping a shopkeeper build a business from desolate to thriving.
As the pilgrimage continues, more pitfalls are experienced. Instead of admitting defeat Santiago uses those barriers to gain knowledge and improve himself. He learns to listen to his heart and not his fear. He learns that to fulfill your dreams you must go after them with relentless effort and zero excuses. At the journey’s end the boy finally reaches the pyramids and begins searching for his treasure. Instead of treasure the boy finds evidence that the gold is actually back where he used to camp with his flock of sheep. This ending perfectly encapsulates the power of dreams and their pursuit.
In life’s journey it is a common mistake to fixate only on the end result. Santiago’s dream didn’t point him to the treasure’s location because the treasure only satiates one desire. The boy’s journey changed him as a person and taught him how to grow and overcome adversity. He built a thriving business, traveled across the desert, met fascinating people, and gazed upon the pyramids. If he had just been handed the gold it would’ve been spent and Santiago would've been left wanting more. He wouldn't have realized the effort and energy it took to earn the reward. The Alchemist teaches us to chase after our dreams with unyielding force, but it also recognizes that hard work is part of the process.