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The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and Life of Pi by Yann Martel

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The protagonists in both The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, and Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, embark on coming of age journeys that, through a process of maturation, change their perspectives on life. Santiago and Pi, the novels respective protagonists, are introduced to the reader as immature students of life. Both adolescent males, Santiago and Pi each embark upon a physical and emotional journey that subsequently fulfills a spiritual void in their lives.

Santiago and Pi are able to find true meaning in their lives in the lessons brought forth amidst their journeys and through the exploration of their spiritual faiths, the abandonment of familiar surroundings, and through their relationships with others. Through these facets of self-discovery and lessons of life learned upon their quests, Santiago and Pi are able to mature by virtue of coming of age journeys that change their perspectives on life. In the preamble of The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho introduces the reader to the character of Santiago, a young shepherd boy who longingly yearns to fill the missing void in his life.

In his novel, stylistically developed as a philosophical fable, Coelho describes Santiago, the protagonist, as a “wide-eyed wonderer” (page 3) who wishes to learn all the valuable lessons that life has to offer. Santiago’s desire to explore life’s wonders becomes evident as he expresses interest in leaving his established adolescent life behind in order to travel the world as a shepherd. Santiago is unsatisfied with the repetition and meaningless of his everyday life. Perhaps the most prominent factor in persuading Santiago to leave his life behind is his father’s inability to find fulfillment in his own life.

Santiago’s father had never traveled the world himself. As a result, he has lived a relatively unfulfilled life and has reluctantly permitted Santiago to follow his dreams, the very dreams that his father was never able to follow himself. This becomes apparent on page 9, where it is noted that Santiago “… could see in his father’s gaze a desire to be able, himself, to travel the world – a desire that was still alive… ” Although Santiago’s father wishes his son to become a priest, he can see a reflection of himself within Santiago’s eyes and acts accordingly in order to fill those eyes with satisfaction.

Similarly, Santiago looks within his father and can clearly see a path in life that he would surely loathe to follow suit. With his father’s support at hand, Santiago realizes that he, himself is the only obstacle in his way of achieving any desired goals imaginable. This is evident on page 28, where Santiago is said to, “… feel jealous of the freedom of the wind, and saw that he could have the same freedom. There was nothing to hold him back except himself. ” At this stage of his life, Santiago feels incapable of achieving self-fulfillment in his current situation and surroundings.

As a result, Santiago embarks upon a life altering journey in the hope of finding meaning, fulfillment, love, and spiritual sanctity in his life. As Santiago begins his quest, he also begins to formulate a new and meaningful relationship with himself, as well as supplementary relationships with his sheep, the desert, and the wind – his sole companions in travel. Although rash and immature in his adolescent decision to rapidly leave home, Santiago’s decisiveness in his unfulfilled hunger for travel would lead to the greatest experiences of his life.

Santiago spontaneously embarks upon a quest for self-realization, and as a result, engages in a process of maturation through the lessons of life he learns along the way. As the story of Life of Pi commences, the reader is introduced by the author, Yann Martel, to the troubles of the novel’s immature and adolescent protagonist. Similar in nature to Santiago, Piscine Molitor Patel, or informally known simply as Pi, is also a young male who is noticeably lost in a seemingly meaningless and insignificant life. Pi’s confusion and vulnerability in his life is most evident through his persistent exploration of different religious faiths.

For various reasons, Pi has been ostracized by his peer group and colleagues. As a result of his social isolation, Pi thoughtlessly feels as if he is not accepted because of imagined personal imperfections. Pi seeks out the ideologies of a number of religions in an attempt to seek acceptance from any social group, especially from one as established and supportive as a religious institution. Pi’s desire to learn the practices of several different religions are evident on page 52 as he reveals that “A germ of religious exaltation… was sown in me and left to germinate. It has never stopped growing since that day. This quotation emphasizes Pi’s urge to gain religious acceptance, regardless of the abundance of religions he must explore in order to do so. Pi’s social insecurities, coupled with his need of acceptance, are of a direct result of Pi being deserted from his colleagues and peer group. For various reasons, stemming from a foundation of ridicule directed at the oddity of his full name, Pi has always been ostracized by other children his age. The piercing heartache that Pi was forced to endure as a result of the ridicule is most appropriately illustrated on page 22, as Pi reflects that, “The sound would disappear, but the hurt would linger… he cruelty of children comes as news to no one… unprovoked, uncalled for. ” Due to the tension he experiences in relationships, emphasized by other children his age, Pi longs for acceptance and is forced to socially acquaint himself with animals as if they were his friends. Pi’s family is unique since the parents professionally tend to animals in a zoo. Pi uses this accessibility to animals as an opportunity to create relationships and to gain acceptance from another living thing.

Pi directly connects the behaviors of humans and animals in an attempt to substantiate the significance of his social relationship with animals and to denounce the importance of similar relationships with humans. This is evident on page 25 as Pi says that, “Repetition is important in the training of not only animals but also of humans. ” In likening humans to animals, Pi is trying to translate the lessons he learns with animals to hopefully assist in facets of social interaction with humans. Like Santiago, Pi Patel is without meaning or fulfillment in his life.

Pi is unable to gain social acceptance and is forced to seek “compensated” acceptance from religion and animals as a result. Pi is lost within an unfulfilled life without meaning, and is subsequently blind to the significant aspects of life. As Santiago continues on his journey for self-discovery, he begins to mature from the lessons of life he learns along the way. In the process of abandoning his homely, familiar surroundings, Santiago is able to mature through the exploration of his spiritual faith and through the relationships he builds along the way. Santiago envisions a reoccurring dream of a faraway hidden treasure.

With the help of a self-proclaimed magical king, Santiago discovers that pursuing the treasure in his dream is his Personal Legend in life. Santiago then takes a leap of faith by selling his cherished flock of sheep in order to fund the search for his Personal Legend. Santiago is able to abandon his flock of sheep, his once sole companions, because he has faith in the validity of his Personal Legend, and, as a result, takes another step further in a life altering process of maturation. This is evident on page 35 as Santiago realizes that “If God leads sheep so well, he will also lead a man… hen you want something so bad, all the universe will conspire in helping you to achieve it. ” The strength of Santiago’s spiritual faith solidifies the validity of the dreams and goals he longs to achieve. Through the greatest of adversities, Santiago is able to overcome his burdens and continue on with his journey. On the course of his journey, Santiago is faced with an abundance of obstacles. Santiago is robbed of all the money in his possession, thrown in the midst of a dangerous desert tribal warfare, and even constantly ridiculed for his belief in a mirage of a Personal Legend.

Yet through all these adversities, and many more, Santiago is still determined enough to continue on with his journey. This is apparent on page 72 as Santiago comments that, “The closer one gets to realizing his Personal Legend, the more that Personal Legend becomes his true reason for being. ” Santiago is so determined to reach his Personal Legend and to complete his journey that he is able to put everything aside in order to make achieving his Personal Legend his true reason for living.

Santiago is able to mature along his journey through the exploration of his spiritual faith and analyzing lessons learned along the way. Similar to Santiago, Pi Patel is also able to achieve maturity along the path of his journey of self-discovery. As the novel progresses, Pi is unknowingly catapulted into a life altering situation that inevitably changes his perspective on life. The Patel family decides to migrate, via watercraft, to Toronto in an attempt to start their lives anew.

The boat tragically sinks and Pi’s parents perish in the accident, leaving Pi stranded on a lifeboat with only an assortment of animals, the ship’s cargo, as companions. The piercing heartache within Pi that resulted from the loss of his parents is more vividly illustrated on page 108 as he says that, “I was not wounded in any part of my body, but I had never experienced such intense pain, such a ripping of nerves, such an ache of the heart. ” The sudden and abrupt tragedy that Pi was forced to endure immediately forced him to mature into a new person.

After a period of mourning for the loss of his family, his only true companions, Pi comes to a realization and begins to take hold of his once fading life. The death of his parents triggered a sense of urgency within Pi for him to dictate the path of his own life, destiny, and journey. Pi’s coming of age is conveyed on page 163 as he says “I have survived so far, miraculously. Now I will turn miracle into routine. The amazing will seem everyday… Yes, so long as God is with me, I will not die. Amen. ” With God on his side, Pi believes he can conquer the seemingly insurmountable burdens that have been placed before him.

Pi’s landmark achievements in maturity and self-realization, as achieved on the lifeboat, would perhaps never have been accomplished without the companionship of Pi’s animal friends. Over time, the animals on the lifeboat end up killing each other until there is all but a Bengal tiger remaining on the lifeboat with Pi. The survival of the tiger, named Richard Parker, substantiates Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest. Richard Parker actually begins to speak with Pi in a full and comprehensible dialect. They subsequently form an uncanny social relationship with one another as a result.

Richard Parker’s significance in Pi’s progressions in maturity and survival is clearly outlined on page 262 as Pi submits that, “I love you, Richard Parker. If I didn’t have you now, I don’t know what I would do. I don’t think I would make it. ” This use of personification, whereby Pi loves a wild tiger as if it were a human, outlines Pi’s first real social bond with another human-like creature. On his journey, Pi is immediately forced into a tragic, life altering situation but is able to develop his maturity through it all due to an innate connection with God and a unique relationship with a true friend.

In The Alchemist, Santiago achieves both maturation and self-realization through the life altering lessons he learns along the path of his coming of age journey. As Santiago’s journey draws to a close, he realizes that true meaning in life and his Personal Legend are often in the least likely of places. Santiago is able to discover true meaning in his life as he meets and falls in love with Fatima, his “twin soul” (page 92), in the depths of an unkind desert. It is rather ironic that Santiago can find such true love, as well as the secrets of wisdom, within the inhospitable peril of the desert’s treacherous geographic conditions.

On page 159 Santiago contemplates the relevance in his life of the treasure of love he has just discovered in Fatima as he says, “Where your treasure is, there will also be your heart. ” Santiago wonders if perhaps he has already found his treasure in the form of his love for Fatima. Perhaps Santiago’s treasure and Personal Legend have been inside him all along, and only needed a journey to expose it. On the path of his journey, Santiago also encounters a wise alchemist who shares with him the logistics of the art of alchemy.

Through this apprenticeship experience Santiago is able to learn great lessons of wisdom and discover a formula to achieve a fulfilled life. As a mentor, the alchemist teaches Santiago the art of alchemy and its applicability to life. This is evident as the alchemist tutors Santiago on alchemy, love, and life on page 145 as he says, “Love is what turns lead into gold, and makes the gold return to earth… when you are loved, you can do anything in creation. ” Santiago is able to analyze the alchemist’s ideologies and make his own interpretations of the true meaning of his mentor’s teachings.

Through Santiago’s apprenticeship, Coelho is trying to extend a relevant message to the reader. Coelho is using these characters, events, and symbols as metaphorical tools to show the reader, as well as Santiago, how to achieve spiritual alchemy in their own lives. By allowing his readers to connect emotionally with Santiago, Coelho is encouraging his readers to recognize the gold, or Personal Legends, in the rocks, or normalities, of everyday life. On the path of his journey Santiago is able to find true love, his sole meaning for living, and fulfill a spiritual void in his life as a result.

Throughout his coming of age journey, Santiago is able to mature and change his perspective on life from the lessons he had learned along the way. Similarly, in Life of Pi, Pi Patel is also able to achieve maturity through the lessons of life he has learned along the path of a life altering journey. In the conclusion of the novel, the author, Yann Martel, conveys the maturation process that Pi had endured through descriptive insight regarding Pi’s optimistically improved perspective on life. Pi is able to make startling realizations regarding many of the various religious faiths he had once tried to explore.

Pi has grasped the reigns of his own spiritual faith even though he has not yet committed himself to one specific religious following. Pi’s spiritual revolution is illustrated to the reader on page 335 as he says that, “It was natural that bereft and desperate as I was, in the throne of unremitting suffering, I would turn to God. ” This shows that even though Pi may have been emotionally and physically exhausted, his spirits are still stronger than ever because of his close relationship with God. Pi realizes that, despite obvious difference amongst specific religions, all religions are essentially the same.

Religion is based on faith. If you have faith, then you are religious. After many months stranded at sea, Pi is miraculously rescued and taken to land. Pi is able to convince once pessimistic doubters of his story’s validity upon sharing the story of his survival with eager listeners – and in doing so, help them discover faith. This is evident on page 354 as a Mexican listener says, “… few castaways can claim to have survived so long at sea as Mr. Patel, and none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger. In convincing others of his somewhat implausible Disney-esque fairy tale, Pi is extending a level of enlightenment that allows other to discover their own faiths. This is a drastic progression from Pi’s once anti-social and pessimistic personality. Not only has Pi found faith in the process of his journey, but he had also matured to such an extent that he is willing to help others find faith within their own lives. Throughout his journey, the concept of Pi’s progressive grasp on his faith is used as a foundation upon which the novel’s characters, plots, and philosophical messages can all be appropriately developed.

Pi is able to achieve a new sense of maturity and subsequently change his perspective on life through the spiritual, practical, and philosophical lessons he learns along his journey. The protagonists in both The Alchemist and Life of Pi, Santiago and Pi, are able to wondrously mature and develop new perspectives on life due to the lessons that they each learn upon their journey. Santiago and Pi embark on journeys, both physically and spiritually, in order to add meaning to their once incomplete lives.

Both protagonists are immediately forced to mature as they are catapulted into a world of seemingly insurmountable burdens and obstacles. Through the explorations of their spiritual faiths and the relationships they form with others along the way, Santiago and Pi are able to overcome adversity and continue their journeys that subsequently change their perspectives on life. Over the course of their respective journeys, Pi and Santiago are able to mature and discover one true facet of self-discovery that adds meaning to their lives.

Santiago is able to realize that his life is complete once he finds true love and learns how to achieve spiritual sanctity from the normality of everyday life. Conversely, Pi is able to achieve self-fulfillment through an uncanny and meaningful relationship he engages in with God and the supplementary realizations he makes through exploring his spiritual faith. In completing their respective coming of age journeys, Santiago and PI are able to survive a maturation process that changes their perspectives on life and converts them into enlightened human beings.

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