An article on 'the alchemist' has a picture of a man staring into the sunset

‘The Alchemist’ Offers Messages More Relevant Now Than Ever

In an age when books are undervalued, it's time to take another look at this modern classic.
December 31, 2022
6 mins read

It’s not often that a book stands the test of time and continues to garner readers around the world. In the age of social media, so much information is instantly available to us, and books may seem like a thing of the past. But one book in particular seems to provide a counterexample: “The Alchemist.” While the plot that unravels throughout the pages of “The Alchemist” is truly epic, the life cycle of the Paulo Coelho novel is a story in its own right.

According to Coelho, nobody noticed when his novel was originally published in Brazil, except for a few people who bought copies from a local bookstore. Although his original publisher dropped the book and left him on his own, Coelho did not give up on his work.

“It was me in there, all of me, heart and soul,” Coelho writes. “I was living my own metaphor. A man sets out on a journey, dreaming of a beautiful or magical place, in pursuit of some unknown treasure. At the end of his journey, the man realizes the treasure was with him the whole time.”

The Alchemist is about a young Spanish shepherd named Santiago who travels to the Pyramids of Egypt in search of treasure that he learned about from a fortune teller. Along the way, Santiago learns valuable life lessons and meets multiple characters who represent different types of people.

In the end, Santiago discovers that the most powerful lessons are the ones that people come to learn on their own. Readers grow to understand that everyone has a “Personal Legend” they must chase, and the only way to do so is to follow your heart.

In 2022, this message seems more relevant than ever; despite what the media says, you can achieve incredible feats by listening to yourself and your intuition. People you meet in life can help guide you in the right direction, but ultimately, you learn best through experience and by taking leaps of faith.

Santiago had moments in his journey when he was unsure of himself and looked to others for answers. Nowadays, we often get distracted by constantly surfing social media and seeing other people post their accomplishments. “The Alchemist” advises against this tendency by showing that each person can pave their own path. Rather than seeking to conform to a silly social media trend, everyone should pursue the most important thing in life, or their own “Personal Legend.”

While many individuals influence Santiago’s journey, the character who truly takes Santiago under his wing at the end of the book is called the alchemist. The alchemist has very similar powers to Santiago and sees a lot of himself in him. While helping him reach his destination, he makes Santiago learn everything he needs to learn all on his own.

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure,” the alchemist tells Santiago.

For college students, this message is especially inspirational. Students are exposed to connections, knowledge, friends and freedom that they will not have at other point in their lives. When a fearless mindset is combined with all these resources, a student can pursue and achieve their dreams. Ultimately, bravery is invaluable and can really be life-changing if applied in the correct way. Coelho’s story also glorifies the idea of prioritizing chasing dreams and fulfilling lifelong goals over things like money and power.

Not everything will be perfect on these quests, however.

Santiago, for example, worked for a merchant for a year to help him sell crystals. The merchant’s “Personal Legend” was to earn enough money to complete his pilgrimage to Mecca. Once the merchant saved up enough money, however, he became scared by the thought of completing his journey to Mecca, fearing that he would having nothing else to look forward to.

As Coelho writes, “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

For many young adults, long-form literature has been replaced by quick-hitting blog and social media posts. Social media and the instantaneous nature of information gathering have massive advantages and can help people around the world become more informed. But our tech-savvy world certainly comes with its fair share of downsides too.

Stories like “The Alchemist” are important because of how they show instead of tell important lessons. It’s one thing to learn quick tips from a 200-word article, but sitting down and digesting a story about having faith in yourself is an experience worth having.

Coelho’s classic novel contains lessons that can be learned and translated from generation to generation. People from all walks of life and ages can relate to Santiago and his quest for meaning and understanding. “The Alchemist” has stood the test of time and will continue to do so.

Liam Jackson, Michigan State University

Writer Profile

Liam Jackson

Michigan State University
Creative Writing

Liam Jackson is a senior at Michigan State studying journalism. He is the sports editor at Impact 89 FM in East Lansing.

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