Challenges and Temptations Throughout the Journey

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Challenges and temptations are obstacles that heroes face on their journey. These obstacles can come in many forms like enemies, supernatural creatures and adversity. After the hero crosses the threshold to enter the unknown world, these challenges and temptations arise. In The Alchemist, one of Santiago’s challenges is that he gets robbed by a thief on the port of Tangier and his temptations could include Santiago wanting to abandon his journey because of Fatima. In the Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond’s survival at the Chateau d’if is the main challenge and abandoning his revenge plan after reuniting with his family can count as temptation. In the Odyssey, Odysseus getting pass through Scylla and Charybdis is a challenge and rushing to enter his home to meet Penelope in front of the suitors was his temptation. The purpose of challenges is to make the hero’s journey difficult and the purpose of temptation is to distract the hero from reaching his goal or completing his journey. While the abyss could be considered a challenge, it is the lowest point in the hero’s journey, where he’s most vulnerable skills or emotions are under attack. That is why abyss is sometimes referred to as the “Belly of the Whale” symbolizing somewhere dangerous like “the lion’s den.” This is where the hero overcomes his greatest fear, goes through a transformation and experiences revelation. Challenges and temptations force the hero to change and grow, cause the initiate to overcome his greatest fear and provides initiate with psychological strength or intelligence.

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To begin with, challenges and temptations force the initiate to grow and boost his self-esteem and confidence. In The Alchemist, Santiago sells his sheep and travels to Africa in order to pursue his dream about the treasure. He lands on the port of Tangier, where he quickly makes a friend. It turns out that his friend was really a thief who robbed and took all of his earnings. This is the first challenge for Santiago outside of his known world. This challenge forces him to think like an adventurer, “I’m an adventurer, looking for treasure” who has setbacks rather than a poor victim. In Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond Dantes was imprisoned in Chateau d’if for 5 years. There he meets Abbe Faria, the priest, and he teaches Edmond everything he knows about, “ economics, mathematics, philosophy, science ... read, write … weaponry.” In this case, Edmund is battling with boredom, and with the priest offering, essentially a job to Edmond, for digging an escape route from Chateau d’if and paying him with knowledge, his boredom causes him to accept the offer. This causes him to learn new skills which are later used in the movie. In the Odyssey, after escaping the land of the lotus-eaters, Odysseus and his crew land on the land of cyclops. There Odysseus and his crew decided to visit the local inhabitants and went inside the cave of Polyphemus, son of Poseidon. However, Polyphemus trapped his guest in his cave and started eating them one by one. These are where Odysseus is forced to change and develop by the challenges. Odysseus informed Polyphemus that his name is “Nohbdy'', so Polyphemus could not get help from other cyclops. After blinding the cyclops, he tied himself and ordered his crew to tie themselves to three sheep/rams so Polyphemus could not feel them escaping his cave. Challenges pressurize the initiate to think hard and analyze the situation. All of the three heroes in some way or fashion change and grow through challenges.

Abyss is the lowest point in the journey for the initiate, where his most vulnerable skill and/or emotions are attacked. If he survives the Abyss, then the initiate becomes a hero, who has overcome his greatest fear and completed his transformation. In The Alchemist, Santiago’s lowest point in his journey is when the Alchemist told the warrior tribes that Santiago can turn into the wind. While Santiago has no idea how to turn himself into the wind, “It’s just that I don’t know how to turn myself into the wind”. Santiago uses his knowledge and help from the wind, desert, sun and the soul of the world to turn himself into the wind and appear on the far side of the camp. In the Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond’s greatest challenge is to survive in Chateau d’if. Chateau d’if is a prison made for people that French are ashamed of. It is in a remote location and surrounded by water on all sides. Even worse, Edmond is tortured every year, “Every year, on the anniversary of their imprisonment, we hurt them.” Prison conditions are horrible and Edmond has no hope for escape. His trust and faith in God have faded because just like the inscription on the wall of his cell. Sometime after he meets a prisoner who tried to escape, Abbe Faria. He offers Edmund his knowledge if Edmond agreed to help him escape. Edmond worked for the priest and gained knowledge from him, which made him stronger both Psychologically and physically. In the odyssey, Odysseus’ main goal was to reunite with his family and it took him 20 years to reach his kingdom and meet his family. Odysseus’ lowest point during his journey is when Calypso has trapped him on her island for her pleasures. Calypso wants Odysseus all to herself and wants him immortal but all Odysseus wants is to return to his homeland. Abyss can be both physical and emotional, on one hand, Santiago and Edmond face physical challenges, which make their body or self-esteem stronger. While, on the other hand, Odysseus faces more of an emotional challenge, where he is emotionally tortured as he is trapped in Ogygia.

Temptations work as a distraction, to divert the initiate from complete their journey. However, if the initiate surpasses the temptation, it can help initiate develop psychologically strength. In the Alchemist, one of Santiago’s temptations were to abandon his journey due to Fatima, “I want to stay at the oasis… I’ve found Fatima, and… she’s worth more than treasure.” The Alchemist tells Santiago his future if he decided to stay with Fatima. This provided Santiago with psychological strength to resist his urge and continue the journey. In the Count of Mount Cristo, Edmond’s temptations were to also abandon his plan and run away with Mercedes and his son. However, Jacopo insisted that Edmond should kill Ferdinand to finish his journey. This changed Edmoud’s mind and gave him psychological strength to kill his friend. In the Odyssey, Odysseus encountered many temptations on his journey to Ithaca, but the most impactful was him resisting the urge to kill the cyclops. After Polyphemus trapped, Odysseus and his men and started eating them one by one, Odysseus impulsively wanted to kill the Cyclops, “drawing the sharp sword from my hip I went along his flank to stab him where the midriff holds the liver.” Instead, he had a sudden comprehension of this scenario. If he kills the cyclops he could never exit the cave. In this case, temptation’s unconsciously triggered critical thing skills in Odysseus’ mind. Santiago’s temptations lead to psychological strength and this helped him complete his journey. Likewise, Edmond also received psychological strength that caused him to finished his journey and complete his revenge.

In the final analysis, each initiator faces challenges and temptations and the initiative must overcome these obstacles in order to transform into a hero. Challenges and Temptations also leave a long-lasting effect on the initiate, which includes, triggering the growth of initiate, prepare initiate for it’s the greatest challenge, and provides the initiate with mental strength or cleverness. Within these three heroes, Santiago is the most heroic because he started with no experience and faced these challenges thoroughly. Throughout the journey, he faced many challenges and temptations, but he still continues and finished his journey. 

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