In Paulo Coelho’s novel The Alchemist the story of the shepherd boy Santiago and his journey to fulfill his Personal Legend unfolds from beginning to end. On his journey Santiago meets several significant male characters that play very important roles in the development of his character, his journey, and his story. There are only a few female characters in The Alchemist, as men dominate the story; however, one of these female characters also plays a very significant role in Santiago’s story. Santiago falls in love with Fatima and this forever changes both of their lives. On the surface, the development of Fatima’s character seems to come from and speak for a male chauvinistic point of view and perspective. Not much is revealed about Fatima or her life other than her love for Santiago. Fatima fully supports Santiago’s quest and encourages him to leave her in search of it. Fatima seems to define herself by her love and support of Santiago, but this does not mean that Fatima’s character is written as such to emphasize a sexist point of view concerning the role of women. This narrative, with the use of Fatima’s character and her role in Santiago’s life, speaks volumes about the role and power of both women and love.
Women are in a constant battle, not for an upper hand, but for mere equality. Coelho’s Fatima eagerly encourages the man she loves, Santiago, to leave her and fulfill his Personal Legend. This is an act that seems to emphasize Fatima’s belief that Santiago’s happiness is more important than hers, which seems to allude to an equality between the two characters. This characterization of Fatima may cause readers to question the narrative’s view on women. Fatima’s willingness to let Santiago continue with his journey while she stays behind and waits for him can, on the surface, be mistaken as weakness and submissiveness.
Coelho’s The Alchemist is not a study on the roles of men and women and it is not making a statement about equality. This novel is about the journey of life and all the amazing gifts, lessons, and people that can be found on this journey; love being one of the most important and valuable treasures that can be found. Fatima’s willingness and eagerness to let Santiago go is not a sign of weakness, but a powerful expression of love and sacrifice. Fatima’s character is not focused upon long in The Alchemist, but with the use of her short appearance the narrative is able to make a statement about the complex nature of women; a nature that is powerful yet subtle, strong yet soft, and fierce yet comforting.
Santiago and Fatima experience love at first sight. Their first meeting is full of powerful and intense motions as:
At that moment, it seemed to him [Santiago] that time stood still, and the Soul of the World surged within him. When he looked into her dark eyes…he learned the most important part of language that all the world spoke-the language that everyone on earth was capable of understanding in their hearts. It was...