Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho — POV, Theme, Style, and Symbolism

Point of View (POV)

The story is told from the third person limited point of view. This means that the author not only provides dialogue and events of the novel, he also shares what the main character is thinking. In this case, the author tells the reader what Maria thinks as she moves through her life. For example, when Maria is disappointed by her early loves, the author tells us Maria’s fears, hopes, and dreams instead of just saying Maria was upset when a boy no longer wanted to spend time with Maria. Later in the novel, the author shares Maria’s thoughts when she is engaged in dialogue with another character, providing even more insight into Maria’s character. The author shares the acts and the dialogue of the other characters but does not take the reader into their minds as he does with Maria.


‘Eleven Minutes’ is the story of a prostitute- Maria, a Brazilian small towner who sets out on the path of prostitution in search of adventure and money. Coelho uses Maria to write a saga of sex and love-making, explores the difference between the two and in the process questions various precincts of societal codes of morality and righteous living. Maria sets out as a cabaret dancer in Switzerland and gradually turns to prostitution by choice, rather than by compulsion.

At one point she analyses her situation thus, “(was) she doing this because she needed to” or “(was) she doing it because she wanted to experience something new” or “(was) she doing it because she had nothing to lose”. She decides that none of the above was true and that “it was best to forget all about it and simply deal with whatever lay on her particular path”. Maria learns about men and sexuality through her various clients. She deliberates at various points in the book: “I have discovered why a man pays for a woman: he wants to be happy” or that “sex has come to be used as some kind of a drug: in order to escape reality, to forget about problems, to relax”. She explores sado-masochism with one of her clients and writes “when I experienced humiliation and total submission, I was free”. Her disillusionment with sexuality grows. She writes “I need to write about love- otherwise my soul won’t survive”. Finally, she does find her love in an equally disillusioned painter. Maria is left to choose between her existing life of mindless lust, the life of mundane ordinariness that awaits her back home or an odyssey of sacred sex along with her lover.


The element of desire is the undercurrent running throughout the entire novel. Initially, the desire takes shape in Maria’s girlhood dreams of finding the right man to marry and raise a family. Maria wants to have what everyone else, including her parents, has—a family unit, which is the core of Latin society. As Maria grows up, she learns that she is different from her friends and other women in that she has the desire to travel, learn new things, and see if the world may have more to offer. When Maria reaches young womanhood she is disappointed with life in her small town, and she yearns for any type of adventure. This passion will take her not only to a faraway country but also to a career and different levels of love Maria could never have imagined in her small Brazilian town. As a prostitute, Maria still persevered to gain enough money to giving her parents a nice home, a farm where she could start a business and become a successful individual.


The Pencil. Like any other literary pieces, the Pencil symbolizes an interest of the boy to Maria.

Maria’s Diary. The diary shows the record of how strong Maria is as she endured all her trials and where she holds her thoughts. This represents herself being strong in the face of trials that the book is with her along the way of her journey.

Rio de Berne. This place is where she went to find a job after Maria encountered Roger and the Arab man, she found Copacabana where she worked. This symbolizes opportunities are everywhere but you need to choose wisely for a better outcome of events.

The Road to Santiago. When the time Maria met Ralf Hart at the cafeteria, the cafeteria itself is along the Road to Santiago. The people who do pilgrimage walk along this road for them to seek providence and divine solitude with God. From then on, the road itself signifies that Maria has found the right path in her journeys called life and love, upon meeting Ralf.

Maria’s Portrait. In their first meeting, Ralf painted Maria while sitting at the corner of a cafeteria. He told her that he sees her “inner light.” With this, it tells us that the portrait signifies Maria’s strong will to conquer her fears and live her dreams. Despite the dark path she is walking, Ralf has seen her “inner light,” her light as a person, not just a mere woman.

A Bouquet of White Roses. When Ralf confessed his love to Maria at the airport, he gave her a bouquet of white roses upon confession. Those white roses symbolize his pure love to Maria notwithstanding her life as a prostitute, despite her past. He loves and accepts her as to what kind of person she is.