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The Alchemist

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Michael Chan

on 26 May 2014

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Transcript of The Alchemist

Crystal Merchant
"New Friend"


Protagonist of
The Alchemist
A young shepherd boy traveling from a small Andalusian town
Parents wanted him to become a priest, but refused to and became a shepherd since he wanted to travel
Despite being conservative, he starts to become more ambitious after encountering a dream of uncovering a treasure near the pyramids in Egypt
Who is Santiago?
Santiago's Journey to the Pyramids
SANTIAGO decides to visit an old woman in Tarifa, since she was able to interpret dreams
An old woman living in Tarifa
Santiago describes her as a Gypsy, someone deceptive and evil
When "...she took both of his bands in hers, and began to pray. It sounded like a Gypsy prayer." (11-12)
Since Santiago had fears of gypsies as tricksters and kidnappers during his childhood, "this childhood fear returns when the old woman takes his hands in hers" (12)
However, he sees that she keeps the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where all faiths are most likely to be connected
What does he Learn?
The gypsy woman interprets dreams by reading Santiago's palms.
She conveys to Santiago that dreams originate from the language of God.
"And dreams are the language of God. When he speaks in our language, I can interpret what he has said. But if he speaks in the language of the soul, it is only you who can understand..." (12-13).
However, the gypsy woman describes how "the interpretation is very difficult" (14).
Since his "dream was a difficult one" (15), he now learns that "only wise men are able to understand them" (15).

A gypsy who helps Santiago interpret his dreams.
As a result, he is disappointed and realizes that he should not believe in dreams again.
However, Santiago is given some clue for where he is headed to with his Personal Legend
He will go to the pyramids and find the treasure
Santiago consults her for a better interpretation of his own dreams
She requests 1/10 of the treasure he finds in the pyramids
A fluent Spanish speaker
Dressed in a Western dress, but he must have hailed from the city of Tangier.
He appears to be a young man about the same age and height as Santiago himself
Santiago believes that he has found himself a guide after being treated in a friendly manner
Not all Characters can be that nice.
What does He Learn?
As a result, he decides to befriend him since he seemed to be trustworthy and familiar enough by speaking Spanish at the same time.
His "new friend" tells him that money is needed in order to reach the pyramids, where he needs to cross the entire Sahara desert.
Simply implies to Santiago that dangers are prevalent for crossing the desert, especially when he has no money in his pockets.
As a matter of fact, he takes out money from the pouch to offer him to serve as a guide
A merchant selling varieties of crystal glasses and products.
He has worked and "been in the same place for thirty years: a shop at the top of a hilly street where few customers passed" (44).
He meets Santiago, and can tell that he does not have any money to spend
Therefore, Santiago offers to clean up his rusty glass products in exchange for something to eat and the crystal merchant brought him to a small cafe nearby.
What does He Learn?
The crystal merchant explains how he needs to feed Santiago as a hungry person, according to the Koran.
Santiago is elated to work for him, mainly because he is being treated fairly and nicely, with a good amount of pay more than he deserves
Despite being a devout man who lives his life accordingly to the Muslim law an the Koran, "[he doesn't] much like change" (54) and cannot easily adapt.
Therefore, the crystal merchant is rooted in his own ways.
Although the crystal merchant is obliged to visit the holy city of Mecca in the time frame of his life, he has fears for pursuing such a dream and that there may be no purpose to live and carry on once it becomes realized.
Most importantly, it is "the thought of Mecca that keeps [him] alive" (55) and that he imagines the place frequently.
As a result, it has brought many more customers to make purchases at the crystal merchant's shop
Since the Crystal Merchant is a moral and religious man, he serves as an important friend to Santiago when working together with him
In other words, he manifests to Santiago and readers as an example of a person who has completely given up towards the pursuits of his own personal legend, but instead lives the same way for thirty years straight.
Is there anyone you met personally in life that had a similar experience to the crystal merchant's?
How does the crystal merchant's explanation for not taking the pilgrimage to Mecca highlight the difference between Santiago and the Merchant?
As they make their way out of the crowds in the marketplace of Tangier, he discovers a sword
Santiago wishes to ask his "new friend," for the price but realizes that he already disappeared

We can infer that the young man is also a thief as well, since he walked away with Santiago's large sums of money
As a result, he ends up crying after realizing that he has been robbed by a person who has a sincere appearance but an evil mindset
Since Santiago lost all his wealth, "he [is] no longer a shepherd," (39) but only has the Urim and Thummim stones the old man had given him to rely on and appreciate for its symbolic value.
Therefore, "the only truthful thing his friend had told him was that port towns are full of thieves" (40).
An ambitious and well-educated man who studies alchemy
The Englishman relies on his own learning, rather than his own personal instinct.
He has hope to learn from a true alchemist residing at the Al-Fayoum desert as time passes.
The Englishman is a skeptic, as he prefers to rely on books to learn about alchemy rather than using his voice to interact or take interest towards his own surroundings.
Through Santiago's first impression, the Englishman "seemed unfriendly, and had looked irritated when [he] entered" (68).
What does he Learn?
The Englishman also presents the same stones, Urim and Thummim, and explains how he read its story in the Bible.
During one night of their travel journey, the Englishman, struggling to sleep, walks with Santiago to discuss and compare the success of Santiago's personal legend to the truths of alchemy around the world.
He importantly introduces the roles and practices of alchemy:
"When you want something with all your heart, that's when you are closest to the Soul of the World. It's always a positive force" (78).
"...everything on the face of the earth had a soul, whether mineral, vegetable, or animal -- or even just a simple thought" (78-79).
With this being discussed, Santiago is able to grasp and understand that the most important metaphors are being represented throughout the Englishman's books of alchemy.
Both Santiago and the Englishman learn from each other's preoccupations:
Santiago will learn more about the context of alchemy through the Englishman's books of alchemy
The Englishman learns to observe and pay more attention to the desert and his surroundings.
Santiago learns about how "the Soul of the World allowed them to understand anything on the face of the earth, because it was the language with which all things communicated" (80).
Therefore, this type of discovery is known as the "Master Work", where a part was solid and the other part was liquid.
Liquid: Elixir of Life –> Able to cure ALL illnesses, keeping the alchemist from aging as well.
Solid: Philosopher's stone –> Able to transform large quantities of metal into gold.
He learns that the world has a soul in it, and that the language of things can be understood once a person understands the soul first.
In fact, Santiago grasps the fact that such simple things of great knowledge can also "be written on the surface of an emerald" (83).
Although the Englishman turned disappointed to that response, Santiago understands that every person learns things differently in their own ways "but [they're] both in search of [their] Personal legends, and [he respects] him for that" (84).
After all, the Englishman serves as an important friend representing a unique worldview of alchemy and knowledge during their travel time together in pursuit of their own personal legends.
Santiago's encounter with the Englishman allows him to move on to continue pursuing his own Personal Legend to the pyramids, especially when knowing the basics of alchemy that can help guide him through
What is your opinion on relying on books for your own learning, like the Englishman? Is it useful?
Camel Driver
A person who Santiago became friendly with as they traveled alongside each other.
The camel driver introduces himself as a former orchard who lost all his orchard caused by an earthquake to flood his entire land.
Despite all the losses, he learns to feel content as a camel driver who needs to earn a living for him and his family.
He is a devout Muslim, since he relies on the word of Allah when he conveys how "people need not fear the unknown if they are capable of achieving what they need and want" (76).
Santiago learns that one cannot simply turn back once entering the desert but moving forward will be the only concern and "the rest is up to Allah, including the danger" (77).
What does he learn?
Similarly, the camel driver and crystal merchant have strong beliefs towards Islam and the world's connections.
Therefore, the camel driver has already overcome the fears of moving on, unlike the crystal merchant who stays in the same place for thirty years.
He stayed as an orchard who worked on gardening as well as making a trip to Mecca, like the crystal merchant always dreamed of.
Until the disastrous flood, it has taught him that fears of the unknown should be overcome but moving forward is the best way.
"We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it's our life or our possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand"
The only female character of the book
When Santiago wanted to ask another person about the alchemist, he encountered "a young woman [approaching] who was not dressed in black" (92).
She is dressed with a vessel on her shoulder, with her head covered by a veil
...." her lips were poised between a laugh and silence..." (92).
Therefore, the young woman introduces herself as Fatima, the name of the Prophet's daughter living in the Al-Fayoum oasis.
What does He Learn?
She explains to Santiago and the Englishman that the alchemist communicates with desert spirits and lives in the south of Al-Fayoum.
Santiago learns "the language that everyone on earth [is] capable of understanding in their own heart" (92), which is love.
He confesses his true love to Fatima, and she accepts him for being with her.
"And I am a part of your dream, a part of your Personal Legend, as you call it" (97).
However, Santiago hesitates to leave since the desert has already brought him to a beautiful present, which is Fatima.
Therefore, Fatima convinces Santiago that he must continue to pursue his Personal Legend and to not give up.
Santiago finds her as a good omen, since she leads to the right path for pursuing his goal.
Although she has no Personal Legend of her own, her ultimate goal is to love Santiago.
Santiago and Fatima's relationship together is symbolic, especially for Santigo himself who receives motivation to achieve his quest.
Therefore, their romantic relationship allows readers to start understanding the bigger picture of Santiago's connection to his surroundings with deeper significance as the novel progresses.
A horseman dressed in a turban and black kerchief covering his face, with a falcon perched on his left shoulder approaches Santiago instantly.
At first, he speaks loudly to Santiago, in a way that "his words seemed to echo through the fifty thousand palm trees of Al-Fayoum" (109).
Carries a sword and knocks Santiago on the ground, drawing a droplet of blood.
What does he Learn?
The horseman asks why he denies Allah's will, and Santiago explains how he learned about the language of the birds along with everything written by the same hand.
The horseman conveys to Santiago how important it is to be careful with foretelling the future and "when something is written, there is no way to change it" (111).
Therefore, he tells Santiago that he must not give up on his Personal Legend after spending much time and coming this far.
Like Fatima, the horseman is also a good omen who encourages Santiago to not give up on his journey towards pursuing his own Personal Legend.
In fact, Santiago fully grasps and learns that understanding the Language of the World requires great courage.
As a matter of fact, he knows the horseman is the alchemist, when he points south after asking where he lives.
The Monk
Nearing the end of the journey, the monk welcomes Santiago and the alchemist as they enter the Coptic monastery near the pyramids in Egypt.
After Santiago and the monk watch the alchemist turn metal into gold, the monk hesitates for it is beyond his generosity when he receies a portion
The alchemist tells him to accept it as "life might be listening, and give [him] less the next time" (155).
Therefore, Santiago does not speak when he receives another portion, but learns how one must be content with what he/she receives and to not complain or hesitate in any way.
Are you content and thankful with what you have in life? Explain.
Are there times where you are dissatisfied with what you receive?
The Attackers
When Santiago finds a Scarab in the sand, he encounters two refugees hailing from the tribal wars.
While rummaging through Santiago's bags, they find gold and force him to keep digging until the morning.
Therefore, the attackers attack him till he nearly dies when he finds nothing.
When the leader approaches and forces them to stop, he describes his own recurrent dream that "there was a sycamore growing out of the ruins of the sacristy, and [he] was told that if [he] dug at the roots of the sycamore, [he] would find a treasure" (163).
As a result, Santiago is given clues and knows where his treasure is meant to be.
Unlike Santiago himself and human beings in general, the flock of sheep he owns "don't even realize that they're walking a new road every day" (10).
In fact, he explains how they cannot take the opportunity to appreciate the creation and their surroundings of nature, such as when the fields will turn new and seasonal changes.
They do not have their own Personal Legends they can pursue, but can only demand for food and water in their quotidian lives.
Therefore, this will foreshadow and symbolize some of the characters Santiago will meet later on.
Candy Seller
A friendly and welcoming shopkeeper of a candy stall.
He offers Santiago the first sweet made for the day.
Santiago sees how the candy seller is passionate about his job, with a smile on his face when preparing himself for the day's work.
He sees how the candy seller "is doing it because it's what he wants to do" (43) without any trouble.
As a result, this reminds Santiago of the old king he had met, where he could "sense whether a person [is] near to or far from his Personal Legend" (43).
Thank you for your attention :)

by Michael Chan
The Alchemist
by Paul Coelho

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Full transcript