Paulo Coelho was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1947. At a young age he discovered his calling of becoming a writer. Even though Coelho knew what he wanted to do , his future was already picked out for him. His family expected him to become an engineer instead of pursuing a career as a writer. Coelho rebelled at these expectations. His family took his defiance as a sign of illness and admitted him into a psychiatric hospital. He eventually left his home to travel the world in search of his purpose. Coelho eventually returned to his dream of becoming a writer. Through his books he writes his experience of how he came to be a writer. This makes his stories more relatable for his readers.
After reading The Alchemist, you can tell that this is book is a metaphor for Coelho’s journey in becoming a writer. By the River Piedra I sat down and Wept, is Coelho’s willingness to let go of the past and to search for a better future even if the fear of the unknown exist. Veronika decides to die, is his an emulation of his time in a psychiatric facility but also his view of cherishing the only life you're blessed with. It’s clear that Coelho’s work teaches his readers that even the past doesn't define who you are because you are able to change your future. Coelho's vision is for people to find their happiness and to never let anything stand in the way of that happiness.
In The Alchemist, Santiago is a shepherd boy who only knows his life with his sheep. “He is a literate boy who had attended a seminary to learn Latin, Spanish and theology, and might be a priest in a church that could have been “a source of pride for a simple farm family” but since his boyhood he [wanted] to explore the world. He opts the shepherd life to pursue his dream and explore the world”(Bartwal). Santiago meets many people through his journey who teach him something different. He starts by traveling to Africa where he needs to cross the desert however he needs a guide to help him cross it. Santiago found a guide but, the boy stole his money. This was one of the many things that Santiago face through his journey and sometimes he felt like giving up.
“When I had my sheep, I was happy, and I made those around me happy. People saw me coming and welcomed me, he thought. But now I’m sad and alone. I’m going to become bitter and disrespectful of people because one person betrayed me. I’m going to hate those who have found their treasure because I never found mine. And I’m going to hold on to what little I have, because I’m too insignificant to conquer the world. (Coelho 39)”
Santiago believes in himself and is able to overcome his despair.He continues through his journey even though he has no home, no sheep, and no money. “Since his ideal is selfless, his body works more and releases more energy which turns out his work more dynamic. He never wastes this energy through unproductive channels such as worrying about the past, being anxious over the fruit of action and also by getting excited in the present. Of course he thinks about the past to recollect how he became a shepherd, but it is just to boost his confidence by affirming that his choice was right. So he never loses his concentration on the present action”(Muraleedharan). He later meets a glass merchant, an englishman, the alchemist, and his love. All these people teach him to keep chasing his dream and to not stop for anything because then he would never achieve true happiness. Santiago eventually learns that his true happiness was where it all began and even if others ridiculed him for chasing his dream and became happier than others who chose not to chase their dream.
In By the River Piedra I sat down and Wept, “Pilar was leading the life of a normal girl both socially and academically without much complaint until she received a call from her childhood friend”(Pu) wanted to see her after a long time. “Pilar accepted [and] planned to pay a normal visit for a day or two and return to her normal”(Pu) life without him. Their first encounter is awkward and to make up for it he suggest that she accompany him to a conference. Pilar reluctantly agrees to go with him. Through their journey she realizes how he had become a spiritual man who many people trusted and regarded him for his ability to help those in need. He confesses to her that the love for her never died. Pilar still loved him but she didn’t tell him that because for them to have a normal life, he had to give up his life as spiritual figure.
“I was being tough, but there was no other way. Subject closed, I thought. Our being together for these three days has been enough to change his mind. My pride was a bit wounded, but my heart was relieved. Do I really want this? I asked myself. I realized that I was already beginning to sense the storms brought on by the winds of love. I had already begun to feel the break in the dam” (Coelho)
“The potential of her mind to influence her friend and decide the course of their journey was realized only later on. In her boldness to make herself a part of his life is achieved through trials and tribulation of her mind”(Pu). Pilar became very conflicted because she didn’t know weather to let him go or to chase after him and his love, knowing that she would never have her normal life again. Through her journey, Pilar reconnects with her religious side which she had abandoned because of her hardships. Through her new religious beliefs she learned to let go of all the negative things that held her back from loving him and decided to reciprocate his love for her. She knew that loving him however would come with a price but she decided to love him rather than regret not ever loving him at all.
In Veronika decides to die , Veronika is a smart and beautiful girl who has anything that she could ever want. “Veronika as is unable to bring in any sea change in her life is highly bored with the monotony and her desire to be an artist is objected by her parents”(Anbarasi 23). “[She] has been trying to be an ideal person who always obeys [the] rules and fulfils others’ expectations. She pretends to be another person and lives under the shadow of falseness. This falseness becomes the major reason that causes her basic needs to be dissatisfied”(Putri). “Despite her youth, beauty, economic stability and freedom, she ruminates that she would gain nothing by continuing to live. Everything around her in the world is wrong and she is utterly powerless to set things right”(Anbarasi 23).
She believed herself to be completely normal [but], everything in her life was the same and, once her youth was gone, it would be downhill all the way, with old age beginning to leave irreversible marks, the onset of illness, the departure of friends. She would gain nothing by continuing to live; indeed, the likelihood of suffering would only increase”(Coelho 9)
Veronika’s attempt of suicide isn’t successful and she ends up waking in a psychiatric facility known as Villete. Dr. Igor is the one who treats Veronika and tells her that even though she failed to commit suicide, she eventually will die because of how many pills she took. “He had successfully established the fact that it is not awareness of life but that of death, that encourages us to live more intensely” (Anabarasi). Unaware of the happening, Veronika is stated that she might live for a week and her experiences with the inmates of Villete make her comprehend that living is invaluable. Within the shortest duration allowed, she evinces strong desire to live through life thoroughly and to her heart's’ content” Veronika , even being committed in an asylum, learned from different people to count her blessing and to relearn how to enjoy life. Because she was under the notion that she would eventually die she chose to live everyday as it was her last and discovered the many sides to herself that she chose to suppress over time.“When [she] took the pills, [she] wanted to kill someone [she] hated. [She] didn’t know that other Veronika's existed inside [of her], Veronika's that [she] could love’” (Coelho 65).
In life we have to learn to overcome things that hold us down like failure or bad experiences because the only way to find true happiness is by choosing a better outcome. Paulo Coelho novels teach many life lessons that should be taken to heart because anyone can relate to struggles and accomplishment that will happen in life. The Alchemist he teaches to search for our dream even if there are many obstacles in the way. By the river piedra I sat down and wept teaches to let go of the fear of the unknown because life will pass by if it’s not acted upon. Veronika decides to die teaches to cherish every day because no one is promised tomorrow.
- Bartwal, N. (2017). Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist: A Journey from Philosophy to Literary Fiction. International Journal of English Language, Literature and Humanities, 5(5), 104-113.
- Coelho, P. (1993). By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept. HarperOne.
- Coelho, P. (1998). The Alchemist. HarperOne.
- Coelho, P. (2006). Veronika Decides to Die. HarperOne.
- Muraleedharan, S. (2013). Impact of Myth and Archetypal Images in Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist. International Journal of English Language and Literature Studies, 2(3), 1-11.
- Anbarasi, R. (2017). Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho: A Psychological Insight. Language in India, 17(2), 23-31.
- Pu, X. (2015). Analyzing Paulo Coelho's Novel By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept from a Feminist Perspective. Journal of Literature, Languages and Linguistics, 14, 1-7.
- Putri, S. I. (2018). Paulo Coelho’s Veronika Decides to Die: A Study of Existentialism. Jurnal Ilmiah Langue and Parole, 1(1), 9-19.
- Muraleedharan, S. (2016). Paulo Coelho's Works: A Study in Metaphysical Philosophy. Language in India, 16(1), 1-12.
- Verma, N. (2015). Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist: A Metaphor for Life. Asian Journal of Multidimensional Research, 4(4), 70-75.