The Alchemist is one of the most popular books written by Paulo Coelho, which reveals the journey of a shepherd, Santiago. At the same time, the book raises deep philosophic issues, where are relevant today. The author uses irony skillfully to convey his message to the audience and to draw the attention of the public to what the author considers to be important issues. In this regard, irony plays a particularly important because it contributes to the stylistic richness of the book and easier perception of the author’s message by the audience.
In fact, the book contains diverse manifestations of irony. For instance, the author depicts the gypsy, who tells the main character about the legendary treasure he can find in Egypt, she turns out to be profit-driven as she asks Santiago to give her 10% of the treasure, if he finds it. In such a way, the author shows that, in spite of the mysticism the gypsy attempts to surround herself with, she turns out to be just a person, who wants to earn some money, which is apparently her ultimate goal but not fortune telling or other activities, she uses to make money from her clients.
At the same time, the author pays a particular attention to self-irony, which helps the author to uncover the truth about the philosophy the author wants to convey to the audience. Self-irony concerns the shepherd, who abandons everything in search of a legendary treasure. In fact, it seems to be absolutely unthinkable because shepherds spent their life doing their job and very seldom they went out beyond boundaries of their village. Therefore, Santiago, who travels throughout Spain and North Africa is apparently ironic depiction of shepherd. In such a way, the author attempts to show the limitedness of contemporary people, whom the author compares to shepherds, who live in the world of their own and cannot believe in a miracle like Santiago eventually did.
In such a way, the shepherd turns into a philosopher in the course of the book that also quite ironic transformation. Ironically, he pursues treasure implying to obtain wealth but the true treasure is in himself and in the legend of treasure as the alchemist tells the main character. In such a way, the author shows that people look for wealth and they are shallow in their pursuits as Santiago was, at the beginning. However, as Santiago explores the world, he broadens his eyesight and becomes a philosopher.
Throughout the book, the author ironically depicts the pursuit of people for wealth, while true values are really different and they do not relate to the wealth at all. In such a way, through irony, the author promotes the concept of humanistic values, which he puts prior to wealth and consumerism of the contemporary society.
Obviously, the irony used by Coelho in his book helps to understand the full extent to which all the efforts of humans to become richer or to pursue wealth are vain. In fact, wealth is nothing but vanity, while the true treasure is hidden within people.
Thus, the author uses irony to convey his ideas to the audience and to make his message more persuading because the audience see the full extent to which the pointless is the pursuing of material wealth compared to eternal values promoted by Coelho.
Coelho, P. The Alchemist. New York: Random Houe, 2008.
Pool, H. “Question Time,” The Guardian, 2009. Retrieved on January 30, 2012 from http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/mar/19/paulo-coelho-interview