An Analysis of Maria’s Character in Eleven Minutes Novel by Paulo Coelho


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Paulo Coelho is unquestionably of the most successful authors of recent times, selling more than 100 million books in at least 150 countries internationally. Paulo Coelho has met with a lot of success; his books have been widely translated in a number of languages, earning him the prestigious Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author and has received much honor. However, it should be noted that Coelho was not always necessarily celebrated for being the writer that he is today.

Paulo Coelho was born on August 24, 1947 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As An adolescent, Coelho expressed a longing to become a writer. However, his mother was of the opinion that Coelho should do pursue something along the lines of his father, who was an engineer. This longing and unwavering determination ultimately led to his parents enrolling him in a mental institution. Coelho managed flee thrice and finally was released when he was 20. Paulo maintains that his parents acted out of goodwill.

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Coelho has published many other works which have also received critical acclaim, for instance; The Fifth Mountain, The Valkyries, Veronika Decides to Die, The Devil and Miss Prym, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, Eleven Minutes, The Witch of Portobello and Like the Flowing River.

He has been married Christina Oiticica since 1980. Paulo is habitual contributor to society. He is a Messenger of Peace for the UN and Coelho established the ”Paulo Coelho Institute” which offers aid to those who face financial issues.

Life is beautiful. This sentence is usually said by young people as they hardly find problems in their life. However, we know that life is not only full of beautiful things and happy moments but also difficulties. People, as human beings cannot avoid them. There are so many problems that exist in our life and we need to struggle to overcome our problems so that we can find our happiness and targets of life.

People face problems in their life. Sometimes, it is not easy for them to accept the problems. Sometimes problems affect people’s mind. Problems can influence their way of thinking. At this starting point, they have to choose how to overcome their problems. For example, since the economic crisis in 1998, people cannot maintain their incomes and expenses. Many people, especially women have worked as labors in factories to support financial problems. However, their salary as labors is still less than the standard money for living. Nowadays, the condition is getting worse. Because of the increasing price of fuel, many factories are closed and most of the workers are laid off. Lia, one of the labors who has been laid off decided to be a prostitute. We cannot avoid our destiny. However, once we have problems in our life, we still must continue our path. We cannot stay in the same place. People need to struggle and survive their own life. Sometimes, people can survive in their life because they have dreams. They want to make their dream come true. Therefore, dream can help them to survive. In Lia’s case, one of the causes for her choice was because she wants to feed her children at home and be able to send them to school.

Such a condition can also be found in a work of literature such as a novel. According to Holman (1998), literature is the expression of life through the medium of language. It can be regarded as something essential since it portrays real life, experiences, people, thoughts and people’s feeling about life . A novel can arouse our feelings and emotions since what exists in a novel are portrayal of human’s real experiences. This is why the most often used word to describe the novel is realistic. Therefore, it is clear that characters and struggle of life in a novel are realistic and can exist in our daily life.

The story is interesting because the writer can see Maria’s problems in life. From the excerpt of her diary, the writer can understand Maria’s struggle for her survival. The way she reacts to each problem makes me interested in analyzing Maria’s struggle for a better life.

Secondly, the way Paulo Coelho, the author, creates some problems which are usually faced by people is interesting to discuss. He describes the story in such a way that Maria, the major character, should deal with her social condition, herself and surroundings. He puts forward some essences of each problem in Maria’s life.

In general, by reading and analyzing this novel, one can learn and understand how to view the world and behave to oneself. Moreover, Maria, the major character says whether she wants to be the victim of life or become an adventurer who is searching for treasure. Her choice proves that she wants to struggle for a better life.

The followings are short explanation of the terms used in this research proposal:

1. Struggle

According to McKechnie , struggle is a task or goal requiring much effort to accomplish or achieve. Moreover, Human (1999) states that struggle means to try very hard to deal with a challenge, problem or difficulty. In this study, struggle refers to human’s effort in dealing with any difficult condition to gain a better life.

2. Character

The word character has two meanings. The first meaning of character refers to the person who appears in the story . The second meaning of character refers to the person who is presented in dramatic or narrative works who are interpreted by readers as being endowed with moral dispositions qualities that they are expressed in what they say through their dialogues and what they do . In this study, a character is a person who is created by an author to form a story through his or her action, feeling and expression.

3. Better Life

According to Hornby, life is described as a way in which somebody lives or condition of an individual’s existence. While Webster states that better means in a more acceptable, appropriate or effective way. In this study, a better life can be defined as a situation in which a person has achieved his or her targets of life after dealing with all his or her problems so that he or she feels more comfortable and settled than before dealing with all his or her problems.

Review of Related Theories

They are theory of character and theory of characterization, which help me to find out the description of the main character. Theory of critical approach is an important element in this section to make a better understanding on the work of literature. Struggle for life, motivation and hierarchy of needs help me to find out the struggle dealing with the main character.

1. Character

The existence of characters in a literary work especially a novel is considered significant. Forster states that a novelist can reveal problems in the novel if he or she can describe characters gently and naturally. Therefore, characters play an important role in the story.

Definition of Character

Character is one of the most important things that appear in the novel. Here, the author creates the character and uses it as an instrument to voice what he or she wants to convey in the story. Harmon says that there are two definitions of character. Firstly, character is a figure in a literary work and secondly, character is the personality, that is, the mental and moral qualities of a figure as when we say that a character is strong or weak, moral or immoral.

Character is a representation of a person in narrative and dramatic works as a result of the readers’ interpretation. His or her words and acts express their moral and dispositional qualities that are expressed in what they say – the dialogues and what they do – the action. Traits and the relationships among them are vital in our understanding of the character. It is not easy to examine the character in term of their traits. However, the difficulty we may experience in such an effort contributes to a deeper understanding of the fictional character as well to a greater understanding of what it is to be a real person.

Kinds of Character

According to Henkle , character is divided into two namely, major and secondary characters. A major character is the most important and complex in a literary work or novel. He or she can be identified by looking into the complexity of his or her characterization. Thus, the readers’ fullest attention is completely given to the major character for the sake of the understanding the story of the novel. It is also the major character that performs structural key function; upon his or her, the readers build expectations and desires. To some extent, as he or she undergoes changes, the reader’s values can be changed or set up.

The secondary characters are those who appear in certain scenes. Generally they are used to become the background of the major character. Basically, secondary characters are to live in the world in the novel. Henkle says that secondary characters can function as a ‘point of reference’ if they act as if they were to see the major character’s great intensity. Their role is less important than the major character because the story of the novel usually deals with the major character.

The Biographical Approach

The proponents of this approach tend to apply the author’s background of life and his or her idea to dig out the understanding of literary work. Therefore, biographical approach uses the biography of the author as the basic of analysis. As a consequence, the readers attempt to learn about the life and the development of the author as much as they can in order to understand his or her writings.

 The Sociocultural-historical Approach

The proponents of sociocultural-historical approach attempt to find the idea by emphasizing to learn the culture which exists in the civilization. The proponents believe that social and historical condition of the author can influence his or her literary work.

 The Mythopoeic Approach

The proponents of this mythopoeic approach understand the literary work by finding particular recurrent patterns of human though which are considered sharing the same universal belief to certain community mind. They are found expressed in ancient myths and folk terms. Therefore, the mystical relationship found in a story can be explained by the use of this approach.

The Psychological Approach

The proponents of this approach use the theory of human psychology as the references to analyze the character’s behavior, motivation and personality pattern that can be interrelated into the psychology of human beings. Through this approach, the character’s thought; idea and behavior can be analyzed deeper.

Each approach has its own strength, weaknesses, values and limitations. It also has its proper insight and this will be the duty of the readers to figure out the approach that would guide to the better understanding and comprehension to the works of literature, as we know that not all of the approaches would be suitable to be applied in every study.

4. Motivation

In the novel, motivation is an internal process that controls Maria’s behavior in order to gain the goals. Maria’s motivation to change her life makes her able to think about the way she should behave in her surroundings. In fact, her behavior cannot be separated from her emotions because her emotion influences her to have certain goals to be achieved. Therefore, the writer will review the theory of motivation to know Maria’s motivation to struggle for better life.

5. Struggle for Life

People face problems in life. Braun, Linder and Asimov state that everybody always has problems in their life. The problems can be simple or difficult. Sometimes, they affect their way of thinking in facing life. Therefore, they need to struggle to overcome their problems. Struggle can be one of the reasons why people want to protect their life. According to Bernard (64), “Individuals also may consciously and rationally implement strategies that enable them to cope with stresses and problems in life”.

4. Motivation

In the novel, motivation is an internal process that controls Maria’s behavior in order to gain the goals. Maria’s motivation to change her life makes her able to think about the way she should behave in her surroundings. In fact, her behavior cannot be separated from her emotions because her emotion influences her to have certain goals to be achieved. Therefore, the writer will review the theory of motivation to know Maria’s motivation to struggle for better life.


Subject Matter

The subject matter of this study is a novel entitled Eleven Minutes written by a Brazilian author, Paulo Coelho. This book is an English version translated from Onze Minutos, the Portuguese original edition, published in Brazil by Editora Rocco Ltd. It was published in 2003 by Paulo Coelho. This novel consists of 269 pages and is divided into 32 chapters. After achieving success, the novel has been reprinted in 39 languages by Harper Collins Publishers.

The story tells about Maria, a young girl from the interior Brazil whose dream is to find a charming prince in her life to help her overcome all her problems. Maria comes from a low class family whose father is only a traveling salesman and her mother is a seamstress. Her struggle of life begins when she has an offer from a Swiss man to work abroad. Realizing about her social condition at that time, she accepts the offer. She tries all she can do to prove that she can have a better life. During her journey, she finds some essences in dealing with her love and sexual relationships. She finds some crucial things that should be achieved in


According to Rohberger and Wood Jr. there are five approaches that can be applied to deal with the literary work. They are the formalist approach, biographical approach, sociocultural-historical approach, mythopoeic approach and psychological approach. In conducting the study, the writer use the psychological approach to analyze the novel since this study is related to psychological aspects. The psychological approach involves effort to locate and demonstrate a certain recurrent pattern. The writer use the psychological approach in order to find out how Maria, the major character in Paulo Coelho’s Eleven Minutes survives for her life. Rohberger and Woods Jr state that psychological approach will obviously give more understanding of the character’s behavior and thought.

Finding Discussion

Character is one of the important things that should exist in the novel. It is a character that makes the novel interesting from the beginning until the end. There are various types of character. According to Henkle , there are two kinds of characters namely major and secondary character. A major character is a character that becomes the focus of the novel. He or she plays an important role in the novel. A secondary character is a character that less appears in the novel and helps to support the major character. According to Henkle’s theory, Maria is categorized as a major character because she plays an important role in the novel. She is the focus of the novel. However, in analyzing the character of Maria, the writer only use some of them. They are personal description, character as seen by another, speech, reaction and thought.


The story in the Novel



And so Maria’s adolescent years passed. She grew prettier and prettier, and her sad, mysterious air brought her many suitors.Maria’s beauty is also seen by the minor characters. One of them is Roger.Of course, he hasn’t seen you sing or dance, but you could learn all that, whereas beauty is something you’re born with. These Europeans are all the same; they come over here and imagine that all Brazilian women are really sensual and know how to samba .Malson, also comments on Maria. He says that Maria is a lucky woman. Maria is born as a beautiful Brazilian girl. This luck continuously happens in her life.


When she had just turned fifteen, she fell in love with a boy she had met in a Holy Week procession. She did not repeat her childhood mistake: they talked, became friends and started going to the cinema and to parties together .it is clear that Maria wants to know everything. Her curiosity also challenges her to learn anything new. She learns that there are some activities that cannot be done in front of a lot of people.She used to do this when she was a child and she liked the feeling, until, one day, her father saw her and slapped her hard, without explaining why. She never forgot being hit like that, and she learned that she shouldn’t touch herself in front of other people … (Coelho 11)Maria is smart in knowing how attractive she is. Therefore, she tries to put her beauty as her strength to attract men. She knows how to maintain the surroundings with her beauty and her strength.


Maria chose to be an adventurer in search of pleasure-she put aside her feelings, she stopped crying every night, and she forgot all about the person she used to be; she discovered that she had enough willpower to pretend that she had just been born and so had no reason to miss someone. Feelings could wait, now that she needed to do was to earn some money, get to know the country and return home victorious .Through personal description, it can be seen that Maria is a brave woman who dares to take risk in every step she takes no matter what. She does not give up easily.


“I’ve just arrived from the northeast and I haven’t got the right clothes to wear to a restaurant” .Maria is an honest woman. She tries to tell what she is supposed to tell. She says what she thinks that it is right. She never hides her feeling when she does not feel comfortable. She is not ashamed of asking of something that she does not know or she needs to know. Maria’s honesty can be seen when she is invited to go to the restaurant to have a meeting with the Swiss man, Roger.


Maria wondered what the connection was between the blood on her legs and her becoming a young woman, but her mother wasn’t able to give her a satisfactory explanation: She just said that it was normal, and that, from now on, for four or five days a month, she would have to wear something like a doll’s pillow between her legs.In her past life, Maria cannot find the Prince of her life. Every time she has a relationship with boy, it always ends in the wrong way and leads to disappointment. She needs someone to be able to share life together. However, she feels like nobody wants to do that with her. It can be seen from her writing in her diary that she wants love but it seems that love is just a dream.


Maria is characterized as a young woman who tries to struggle for life. She also wants to experience something new which leads her for a better life. Maria is described as a beautiful woman who can attract men in many ways. She is also described as a smart, brave, honest and lonely woman. Those characteristics can be seen through personal description, characters as seen by others, speech, reactions, past life and thoughts.

Maria’s journey of life continues when she arrives in Switzerland. When she realizes that Roger cheats her and only makes use of her as a cheap dancer, she tries to struggle for her own right. Finally, she finds justice after she complains to Roger about her job regarding to the Switzerland law. Because of her bravery, she can quit from her job and ready for the new life.

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