The Alchemist- Hero's Journey Symbolism

Thieves in The Alchemist-

There are two examples of thieves in The Alchemist. The first example is an imposter who Santiago meets in Tangier. He later deceives Santiago into giving him all of his money to help him find a camel, then runs off. The second examples is a group of war refugees who beat Santiago up and steal all his money at the pyramids. One of the thieves later gives a clue to Santiago as to where he can find his treasure.

What they represent-

In The Alchemist, thieves are meant to represent everyone who tries to take a shortcut to his/her Personal Legend. According to The Alchemist, this journey is necessary and must not be bypassed. Thieves can also represent a form of anti-hero who lacks integral qualities of a standard hero (idealism, morality, and courage). The first example- the imposter in Tangier- fits the definition of a thief who tries to take a shortcut (deceiving Santiago) rather than going the full mile on his/her Personal Legend. This thief also tells Santiago, "Tangier is not like the rest of Africa. This is a port, and every port has its thieves". This semi self-incriminating line reveals a small bit of morality left in the imposter, leaving us to believe that he, at one point, was a moral human being. In the second example, one of the thieves tells Santiago that he also had a dream of treasure at the same spot, but that he's not "so stupid as to cross an entire desert just because of a recurrent dream". This line secures the second thief's status as a form of anti-hero. This thief, like Santiago, had a dream similar to his, but lacked the courage and idealism to fulfill it. Ignoring this dream, he became degenerate and ended up as one of the thieves who beat Santiago up and stole his money.

How they enhance the story-

The use of thieves in the Alchemist enhances the story in two ways- by serving as a foil to the protagonist, and by displaying the typical Hero's Journey path through a more realistic lens of a character not as motivated as Santiago. Both the Tangier thief and the pyramid thief can be compared to Santiago to see each's differing moral values. The pyramid thief is a better comparison to Santiago, as the Tangier thieve's dream is not revealed in the book. The pyramid thief adds additional importance to the story by giving a different perspective on the idea of dedicating an entire lifetime to fulfilling a dream. Prior to this point, the entire book has been filled with people (like Santiago and the Englishmen) who are extremely dedicated to fulfilling a single dream. Including a viewpoint like the pyramid thief's into the story allows us, as readers, to view the idea of "dreams" and "omens" with the same credibility we would give them in real life. In sum, the thief and his opinions on following dreams are probably some of the most realistic in the book. Also, after Santiago gets his money stolen he realizes he has lost focus on his aspirations and needs to recoup and get back the right mindset. It tells us that he has a sudden realization that he is an adventurer and needs to  seek for the treasure. So, the thief actually helped by becoming less naive and helping him realize me needs to focus on what is really important.

Real-world connections-

The idea of an anti-hero- a person without standard qualities of a hero (idealism/courage/morality)- is popular in fictional books, movies, and TV shows. One popular example of an anti-hero is Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby. In the sense of an anti-hero, Gatsby could be seen as a flawed character for his dishonesty and his unwillingness to "let the past go". Instead of making a change for the better, Gatsby (lacking the qualities necessary to do this) continues with his behavior, and his attempts to "bring the past back" eventually lead to his downfall. Another example of an anti-hero in popular culture is Po from Kung-Fu Panda. Similar to the pyramid thief (and possibly the immoral imposter in Tangier) Po has an initial call to adventure, but when he finds out what he is expected to do, he runs away in a refusal of the Hero's Journey. However, unlike the thieves in The Alchemist, Po eventually accepts the call to adventure.

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