Comparison and Contrast of the Characters in The Alchemist and The Story of an Hour

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Introduction

Characters in different literary works are often employed to reveal to the audience certain themes. Many writers entrust the characters with distinct qualities that are only typical of the desired and expected outcomes of persons of that kind. In so doing, heroes and heroines always have comparable traits as they are the main protagonists for conveying the intended messages. Through comparison and contrast of the selected characters, the audience is able to decipher the intended messages, make interpretations from different viewpoints, and understand better the authors’ messages. This paper, therefore, compares and contrasts the personal legends in the books “The Alchemist” by (Coelho, 1992) and “The Story of an Hour” by (Chopin, 1894). The focus on the former regards Santiago while the latter regards Louise.

Comparison of Character Traits

In examining the character traits of Santiago and Louise, it is apparent that both are shaped differently by the beliefs of the society as well as various distinct behaviors that cultural norms expects of them. Santiago hails from a society where both men and women have the free will and opportunity to pursue and live their dreams (Ortolano 2003). Louise, on the other hand, comes from a society where women have to be submissive to men and live according to the expectations of their husbands. For instance, Santiago’s family members had taken him to Seminary school where he was studying to become a priest, however, upon realizing that he was not into priesthood, he gathered the courage to summon his family members where he informed them that as opposed to their desire for him to become a priest, he, on the other hand, wanted to be traveler of the world. He had a long talk with his father who understood his reasons and freed him to pursue his dreams. “His father said no more. The next day, he gave his son a pouch that held three Spanish gold coins,” (Coelho 5). The coins were to facilitate his travel through buying the flock he was fond off but this time as his own. Here is a family in a society where parents and family members are obliged to show the way for their children and their siblings. However, in the event that the person is old enough to make certain rational decisions, their choices are respected and wants to be granted since everyone cares and seem concerned with the happiness of their owns.

On the other, Louise is married into a society that values a patriarchal marriage in which one’s happiness is of lesser concern. A woman is expected to compromise her needs and wants of what could possibly make her happy (Schmid 56). It can be inferred from the first paragraph in the story of an hour that Mr. Mallard as Louise is known before getting the news of her husband’s supposed death that she is suffering from an “afflicted heart trouble” (Chopin 48). It is evident that the woman has been into unhappy marriage since she was married but has had to put up with the expectations of the community. It is for this reason that her sister Josephine has to find the most amicable way of breaking to her the news of her husband’s supposed death taking into consideration high possibility of getting a heart attack. The heroine is in a society where individuals, particularly the women are spoken for and have to be represented by their husband’s name. Santiago despite being a young boy is not called by the name of his father but rather identified by his own name. Comparatively, the reader does not know what Mrs. Mallard’s real name is until a time that she feels she has acquired a freedom to be identified as Louise after her husband is dead (Gale, 5).

Perception of Love

Santiago and Louise in each of the story as narrated inform the audience of the theme of love. However, based on the environment and cultural norms that they experience the love, they have a different understanding of love and perception of what it means. Santiago having grown in a society where love is genuine and valued, perceives love a universal language that is spoken by the people who experience it (Coelho 1998). For instance, the legend while in search of the dreamt treasure came across a woman by the name Fatima. His description of the moment makes the feeling of love to appear so fantastic noting that it was the pure language of the world that is spoken by people falling in or already in love. “At that moment, it seemed to him that time stood still, and the Soul of the World surged within him” (Coelho 48). As the pure language that it is, there was no need for explanation in the same manner that the universe does not need any explanations to traverse the endless time. Not only did this feeling arise with Fatima but also with the merchant's daughter whom he had expected to see again in four days time after a year had passed. The society also teaches men of the value and the traits of true love. For instance, the Alchemist informed Santiago that “he must understand that love never keeps a man from pursuing his destiny. If he abandons that pursuit, it is because it wasn’t true love…the love that speaks the Language of the World” (Coelho 63).

In contrast, Louise has the exact opposite view, belief, and perception of what love is. The longer periods she has had to put up with suffering in her marriage have made her contemplate that she would be better off than being loved and married. She imagines of solitary existence as she is noted to saying that there would “a long procession of years ... that would belong to her absolutely,” (Chopin 49). The choice to apply the word absolutely means that she is no longer interested in getting into any further relationship. Rather, she prefers to be in solitude. Whatever she had experienced in her marriage which is not revealed in the short story must be heart wrecking. It is really ironical that someone finds hope in her husband’s supposed death. For instance, amidst her grieving moments, she finally says she is free. She finds relief in having to “live for herself” noting that “no powerful will bending hers in that blind powerful persistence with which men and women believe that they have the right to impose a private will upon a fellow- creature”(Chopin 49). She perfectly does not understand the universal language and pure love that Santiago is referring to when it comes to matters of love. It is no wonder she claims that she sometimes had loved Mr. Mallard and sometimes did not.

Accomplishing Missions

Santiago and Louise are both legends in the stories with the expectations of accomplishing their missions. On one hand, Santiago who had set out to tour the world in order to discover his hidden treasure that had come twice in a dream succeeded in accomplishing his mission upon returning home to discover his treasure in the old church whose roof had fallen in a long time ago. Thus, the hero manages to inform the audience that it is worth believing in one’s visions and through patience and hard work; it is possible to achieve objectives and goals that might seem impossible. On the other hand, Louise dies mysteriously with the cause of her death suggested to have been being overjoyed with the imagination of being free after her husband’s supposed death or the patriarchal marriage might have caused her death. The heroine, on the other hand, by dying suddenly “when the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease-joy that kills” puts the reader in dilemma to find the possible cause of her death (Chopin 50). As such, the readers are engaged in an ever ending discussion that intrigues thoughts of varying perspectives.

Impact of Decision Making

Reading the two stories between the lines, the legends in their respective story settings are made or destroyed by their ability to make decisions. The ability to make prompt decisions in an individual’s life often function to define and guide the life that one lives. For instance, Santiago’s parents wanted him to be a priest such that he had attended the seminary. However, he decided not to live a life that his family members had chosen for him. As such, he defined his own path by confronting his family to inform them that he had made the decision to be a shepherd and traveler to explore the world. Travelling was to facilitate his search for the treasure he had dreamt twice dreamt about. He pursued his wishes based on decisions until he finally got the treasure that guaranteed him the life he had admired.

On the other hand, Louise the heroine of the story of an hour failed to make prompt decisions and therefore had to live a life that was chosen for her by her husband and the society. Her indecisiveness made her to allow her husband to speak for her and the society to subdue her wishes. For instance, having realized that she was not happy with her marriage and that she had fully loved Mr. Mallard, she had the choice to quit the marriage and find a man whom could love to her expectations. Rather she chose to stay, tolerated hatred, dissatisfaction, and let her will and desires be conquered by the beliefs and norms of the society. Louise, unlike Santiago, had believed the world’s greatest lie that fate always determines a person’s destiny.

Conclusion

Ultimately, comparing and contrasting characters in different written works provides the audience with an opportunity to relate intensely to the thoughts of the writer. The target readers are not only able to identify and understand the different themes but also able to note the similarities and difference in the way the information is presented based on the setups that the narrations adopt.

Works Cited

Chopin, Kate. The story of an hour. Blackstone.1894.

Coelho, Paulo. The Illustrated Alchemist: A Fable about Following Your Dream. Harper Collins, 1998.

Coelho,Paulo.The Alchemist.1992.

Gale, Cengage L. Study Guide for Kate Chopin's "story of an Hour.". Detroit: Gale, Cengage Learning, n.d.. Print.

Ortolano, Glauco. "An interview with Paulo Coelho: The coming of age of a Brazilian phenomenon."World Literature Today 77.1 (2003): 57-57.

Schmid, Daniel. Male Dominance and Female Powerlessness in Kate Chopin's "the Story of an Hour". , 2017.

November 24, 2023
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Literature Review

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