How Does the Story of Narcissus Relate to the Broader Message of the Alchemist?
‘The Alchemist’ is the novel written by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. The main character of the book is the alchemist, a shepherd named Santiago who pursues his dreams to find a treasure and reaches it in the end. The book also includes prolog with the myth of Narcissus what is a metaphor for the main message of the book. The message suggests following own path and being self-focused to succeed in life.
The prologue of the book tells the myth about Narcissus. ‘The alchemist picked up a book that someone in the caravan had brought. Leafing through the pages, he found a story about Narcissus.’ (Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist, 1988). The alchemist is familiar with the story of Narcissus. ‘A youth who knelt daily beside a lake to contemplate his own beauty. He was so fascinated by himself that, one morning, he fell into the lake and drowned. At the spot where he fell, a flower was born, which was called the narcissus.’ (Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist,1988). However, the book The Alchemist reads has another ending. Narcissus dyes and the goddesses of the forest finds out that the lake, which has been full of water, turned into a lake of tears. The lake says to the goddesses that it cries for Narcissus. Yet it is not Narcissus’s beauty what the lake misses but it’s own beauty which has been visible in the eyes of Narcissus when he looked at it. ‘I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected.’ (Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist,1988).
The myth of Narcissus initially is a story of danger of excess self-love. Narcissus ends up dying, for he is too concerned about his own reflection in the lake and falls eventually. Though, The Alchemist’s takes this story as ‘lovely’ one. ‘What a lovely story,’ the alchemist thought.” (Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist,1988). It is the author’s way of saying that narcissism is goodness. This is the connection between the myth of Narcissus and the main message of the entire novel which empathizes that ability to pursue own dreams is necessary to succeed in life. ‘People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.’ (Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist,1988).
The novel describes the story of the alchemist by his journey to Africa. At the end of the book Santiago reaches his dreams and finds the treasure. First, while sleeping nearby a ruined church, the shepherd dreams about a child who tells him to go to Africa to find the fortune. Santiago goes to a gypsy woman and she confirms that he should set out his journey. After that the boy meets Melchizedek who also suggests Santiago to go to Egypt to find that treasure. ‘Melchizedek explains that Santiago has discovered his “Personal Legend,” the thing he has always wanted to accomplish, and that “to realize one’s Personal Legend is a person’s only real obligation.’ (StudyMode. The Alchemist). This is one of the first points of the book where readers may see how the prolog with the myth about Narcissus is related to a general concept of the novel. The alchemist decides to go to Africa where he faces various challenges. His all money is thieved and he has to work to earn some to return home. (Spark Notes. The Alchemist.). Though, when he becomes a wealthy man in a year he risks and stays in Egypt to pursue his ‘personal legend’. During the journey he meets alchemist who helps the boy not only go on his journey but also shares his wisdom. ‘This is Super Alchemist […] like all alchemists, but he has the wisdom of the ages […] It is the alchemist who guides our shepherd friend through the metaphorical jungle of indecision before leading him, quiet literally, through the desert to find his treasure.’ (BC blogcritics. Book review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho). It is Santiago’s believe that he deserves that treasure and learned wisdom that his desire is important what helps him to make the dream come true.
Santiago is one of those who are not afraid of pursuing his dreams. He reaches what he is eager to have. While seeking for the treasure, he learns that it is crucial to be self-focused and follow ‘personal legend’. The author of the book disagrees with the view that in order to deserve love we should give up own desires and live in a way others want us to do. ‘You must understand that love never keeps a man from pursuing his Personal Legend. If he abandons that pursuit its because it wasn’t true love .. the love that speaks the Language of the World.’ (Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist,1988). It is understandable that Paulo Coelho explains that it is not wrong to love own self and connects the story of Narcissus with the concept released in the book. ‘No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world.’ (Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist, 1988). The author tells that the key to happiness and success is realizing own importance and wishes. ‘But if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become an instrument of God, you help the Soul of the World, and you understand why you are here.’ (Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist,1988).
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