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Copy of The Alchemist
Transcript of Copy of The Alchemist
by Paulo Coelho
The drops of oil
A major symbol invented by Coelho is the art of alchemy. It is an art that transforms any ordinary metal into precious gold by removing all of its impurities. The Englishman described the Master Work of alchemy as an art with two parts: the solid part as the Philosopher's Stone and the liquid part as the Elixir of Life. The mystery of the Master Work is highly complex, but its entirety can be written in a few sentences on an emerald called The Emerald Tablet. At the end of the book, the shepherd discovers that "each thing has to transform itself into something better, and to acquire a new Personal Legend, until, someday the Soul of the World becomes one thing only" (150). Alchemy is a symbol of what every object, not just metal, must undergo so that all things many become one, so that the Master Work--symbolically the universe--may be unified.
The Alchemist, a seemingly cliche story of a boy that follows his dream, is a story that followed Santiago, a shepherd boy from the Andalusia region of Spain, as he courageously traveled through the African desert to see the Egyptian Pyramids while also searching deep within himself and the universe to discover what it truly means to live with a little help from a king, an Englishman, a thief, an alchemist, and the hand that wrote it all. Though a few miniature conflicts arise throughout the course of Santiago's journey--robbery, tribal warfare, the monotony of the desert--the tale's most prominent focus is on Santiago's conflict within himself: whether or not he is capable of overcoming obstacles to achieve his Personal Legend. This fable-like story is told in a happy and hopeful tone and takes place in a nonspecifically mentioned time period, though it definitely takes place sometime after the invention of the printing press (1440) and sometime before the modernized world of trains, planes, and automobiles (circa 1830s). The thrilling adventure is written in third person omniscient point of view, though the narrator tends to focus almost exclusively on Santiago.
The first sentence of The Alchemist reads, "The boy's name was Santiago" (1), a highly ironic statement considering that this is the only place in the entire novel where Santiago is called by name. For the rest of the story, he is referred to simply as "the boy" or "the shepherd" or even "the alchemist" near the end. Additionally, almost all other characters in The Alchemist are referred to with a "generic name"--the girl, the Englishman, the king, the Alchemist, etc though Fatima is always referred to as Fatima. This unsual method of character development is left deliberately unclear so that the novel may take on a universal approach; each character represents either a broad group of people or a character might represent a spiritual idea. In either case, Coelho uses this unique style to further the overall themes explored in The Alchemist.
Strengths & Weaknesses
ALL THINGS ARE ONE.
In a story greatly resembling a parable, the King of Salem, also called Melchizedek, relayed a philosophical tale to Santiago near the beginning of the novel, a story that laid the foundation of the purpose and themes of The Alchemist. The tale was one of a boy sent by his father to learn about the secret of happiness from a very wise man. After finding the wise man, the boy was told to wander the palace per the wise man's direction. He then gave the boy a teaspoon containing two drops of oil and an additional set of instructions, "As you wander around, carry this spoon with you without allowing the oil to spill" (Coelho 31).
The boy explored but did not allow his eyes to wander even for a moment from the spoon for fear of spilling the oill. After two hours, he returned to the wise man who then asked if the boy had seen all of the beautiful things in the city. The boy, embarrassed, explained that he had not seen any of it because he had been so keenly focused on the oil.
The wise man then told the boy to "go back and observe the marvels of my world" (32).
The boy did, taking the spoon with him. This time, he drank in all of his surroundings--"the gardens . . . the mountains . . . the beauty of the flowers" (32). He then returned to the wise man and told him, in detail, everything he saw.
"'But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you?' asked the wise man.
Looking down at the spoon he held, the boy saw that the oil was gone.
'Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you,' said the wisest of men. 'The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.'" (32).
From this story (paraphrased and directly quoted from pages 30-32), two major themes emerge.
In the opening passage, Santiago woke from a recurring dream in which a child lead him to the Egyptian Pyramids where his treasure resided. Curiosity aroused, the shepherd decided to ask a gypsy the meaning of his dream. She instructed him to go to the Egyptian Pyramids where he could find his treasure. Frustrated, Santiago did not believe the gypsy until he met up with the King of Salem, Melchizedek, who confirmed that it was his Personal Legend to go to the Pyramids. Later on in the story, Santiago met up with the candy merchant whose dream was to own a candy shop; the crystal merchant, whose dream was to visit the city of Mecca; the Englishman, whose dream was to become an alchemist; and the robber at the tail-end of the story, whose dream was to travel to the Andalusian region of Spain in pursuit of treasure.
The recurrence of dreams set the stage of Santiago's journey while displaying the universal quality of dreams: everyone has them! Additionally, the gypsy said to Santiago, "And dreams are the language of God" (24). Presented throughout the book is the idea that God is in all things and that there is a universal language understood by all men and all things. Dreams help portray that underlying theme.
After Santiago prompted the crystal merchant--the man he was working for--with the idea of selling tea in the crystal glasses, an action that frightened the merchant by changing the way things were always done, the crystal merchant uttered the word "Maktub," which was said to mean "it is written." Santiago encountered the word several additional times after that: once said again by the crystal merchant who knew that Santiago would not go back to being a shepherd, once thought by Santiago himself after first meeting Fatima and knowing that she was the girl the Soul of the World had picked out for him, once said by Fatima who trusted that the desert would bring Santiago back to her, and finally by the narrator as Santiago began to grasp that death was a very real possibility due to reading the omen of the hawks. By the last and final time it had been said, Santiago understood its full meaning and context. Maktub was only uttered when trusting that the hand that wrote it all had written this part of the future and would deliver its subjects. Essentially, maktub means "what will be will be."
This simple six-letter word helps to illuminate the idea of the Soul of the World. Just before transforming into the wind, the boy has a conversation with the sun who can see the Soul of the World but cannot understand love. The sun then tells him to speak to "the hand that wrote it all"--the hand that created the sun, wind, desert; the hand that performed miracles. This "hand that wrote it all" plays off the idea of maktub--meaning "it is written"--in that it reveals that God wrote all that there is, was, and will be in the world. "Because only the hand understood that it was a larger design that had moved the universe to the point at which the six days of creation had evolved into a Master Work" (152). Maktub furthers the overall idea that all things are connected because all things have the same maker who works all things together.
Having first been taught about the significance of omens by the king--who said that "God has prepared a path for everyone to follow. You just have to read the omens that he left for you" (24)--Santiago, through his trek in the desert, learned to understand the Language of the World, and consequently the language of God, in an even deeper way through the language of omens, reinforcing the idea that the entire world is connected through one language with many facets.
When first recognizing omens, Santiago could tell the meaning of omens only if Urim and Thummim told him directly either yes or no. However, by the end of the book, Santiago was able to recognize even the smallest of omens, a scarab beetle, which assured him that his treasure was near. This progression of Santiago's understanding of the omens demonstrated very literally Santiago's own growth and understanding as he continued along in his journey, supporting the idea that the world is ever-changing just as people and objects are not static.
The wind in The Alchemist is constantly referred to.
While travelling through the desert, Santiago did not even once describe the heat or the clouds or the sand or the sounds. Instead, Santiago focused solely on the wind: how it made him feel, how it was free to roam about. This freedom described by Santiago is compared to the freedom Santiago felt since chasing his Personal Legend. Because he is no longer tied down by the "burdens of love" and every day life, Santiago was able to pursue his dream with nothing to stop him, just as the wind may blow where he pleases.
In the climax of the story, Santiago was required to turn himself into the wind thanks to the "sweet talking" of the alchemist. This act alone set a milemarker for Santiago; he now had a complete understanding of the world, the unity of all things, and God himself. Because he was able to turn himself into the wind, Santiago was now rightfully titled a true alchemist--the very alchemist for which the title of the story was named.
In his conversation with the wind, Santiago learns that the wind has many names due to the many things the wind carried on its back. It is called in some places the sirocco, in others the levanter, and in others the simum, the worst kind of wind. These many names reflect the many names of God--Allah, Father, El-Shaddi, I AM, the hand that wrote it all--and consequently the many names of the Language of the World--the Language of God, the Language of Omens, the Language of Love, and the universal language.
Finally, the wind is an all-powerful, all-present force that must work in harmony with the other forces. Because it doesn't understand love, the wind is a reflection of the powerlessness of all things without the hand that wrote it all. All things are one.
Santiago's sheep are the first of many symbols presented to the reader. Several times, Santiago stated that "they were content with just food and water . . . they trust me, and they've forgotten how to rely on their own instincts" (7). The sheep Santiago tended represent mankind that does not know his Personal Legend. Just as the sheep "live every day the same" (7), man that has not experienced the purpose brought by a Personal Legend lives every day the same, caring only about food and water. Later on, Santiago is told by his heart that Personal Legends are first revealed to children, but because adults squeeze out these childhood desires through ridicule and practicality, children soon forget about dreams and thus abandon their own insticts, like the sheep.
This important symbol relates to the idea that all men will face fears and opposition when following a dream. Some overcome those fears, like Santiago, but most, like the sheep, give into the fear of losing loved ones and the fear of failure and suppress any hint of a dream in the heart whatsoever.
Often portrayed to be an object of despair, the desert in The Alchemist was viewed by Santiago as a teacher: a teacher of trials, a teacher of the omens, a teacher of the world. Because the desert is dynamic, it taught Santiago about the evolution of the world, one of its langauges. "The world had demonstrated its many languages: the desert only moments ago had been endless and free, and now it was an impenetrable wall" (140-141). The desert is a symbol of how the world communicates and how it can change in addition to teaching Santiago about the Language of the World.
To Fatima, the desert represented hope, ". . .the desert would represent only one thing to her: the hope for his return" (123). According to the alchemist, Santiago was Fatima's treasure (121), and allowing Santiago to go pursue his own Legend displays the overall theme of allowing love to be a stimulus. Coelho desperately wants readers to know that no fear should be listened to when following a Personal Legend. Fatima's optimistic view of the desert helps to display that.
The desert here was seen as a tester: a tester of the caravan's every step. "The caravan and the desert speak the same language, and it's for that reason that the desert allows the crossing. It's going to test the caravan's every step to see if it's in time, and, if it is, we will make it to the oasis" (79). This idea of testing reveals two things: first, that all things are one. The desert and the caravan were one because each of their souls are speaking the language of the other. If they were not speaking the same language, they could not allow the other to pass, and there would be no unity or movement. Second, this testing of the desert brings the reader back to the idea of obstacles. Just as Fatima should not stop Santiago from chasing his dream, or vice versa, Santiago should not stop chasing his dream because the desert lies between him and the Pyramids.
Mastering this art is the dream and Personal Legend of the Englishman, and he joined the caravan to find the alchemist, hoping that the alchemist will be able to aid him in accomplishing his Personal Legend. The Englishman is not courageous or observant. The Englishman prefered to learn from the safety of his books rather than from the risky business of experience. This style of learning presents another fear Coelho wishes to abolish: the fear of impossibility. Deep down, the Englishman is afraid that if he tried to transform metal, he would fail. Rather than failing, he simply did not try and hid behind the facade of the "higher knowledge" of research.
As Santiago chased his Personal Legend, he faced many trials of his own. Along with his own struggles, Santiago discovered that two other characters--the baker and the crystal merchant--knew of his own Personal Legend but did not decide to pursue it for one reason: fear. Santiago uncovered four fears that prevented those characters from accomplishing his Personal Legend, the fear that the journey would be impossible, the fear that loved ones would be lost, the fear of failure, and--ironically--the fear of realizing the dream itself. While the primary theme of the book seems obvious--each man has a Legend and must go after it--the book also explores the setbacks and obstacles that are faced by those that know of their dream and those that are trying to see their dream to completion. Just as the boy in the parable should never lose sight of the drops of oil, man universally should never lose sight of his or her own Personal Legend.
Just as the boy in the parable was instructed not only to keep an eye on the oil but to enjoy the scenery as well, Santiago discovered many things while looking for his treasure. If Santiago were simply to find the treasure and move on with his life, Melchizedek would have told him that the treasure was at the church where the story first opened. Instead, Melchizedek wished for the boy to travel, to learn, and to see the Egyptian Pyramids. For these reasons, enjoying the journey emerges in The Alchemist as an important theme, one that taught Santiago about the unity of all things, an art necessary for Santiago to become a true alchemist. He can not do that by simply fast-forwarding to the end of his journey where the treasure rested; there are no shortcuts. The real adventure and the real learning takes place on the journey.
Santiago, the protagonist of The Alchemist, was a boy that is not afraid to test the limits. Early on, the reader learned that Santiago's dream was to travel. In order to pursue that dream, the boy had to abandon his family and his parents' wishes for him to become a priest. After doing so, with his father's blessing and inheritance, the boy sold all he had and became a shepherd so that he could see the countryside. These character traits portrayed two central fears the author wishes to ban from the human brain: the fear that loved ones will be lost when one pursues a dream and the fear that Personal Legends are impossible. Santiago undermined both of those fears in his act to become a shepherd.
After becoming a shepherd, Santiago caught his first few glimpses of the Language of the World through his sheep. They taught him how to communicate with emotions and spirituality--a skill every many and object must master. This idea points to the overall message that everything in the world shares a common origin--the Soul of the World.
Santiago learned the Language of the World through courage, a trait the alchemist described as "most essential to understanding the Language of the World" (111). He did not let robbery, the threat of death, or twists in his journey prevent him from keeping his eyes focused on the drops of oil and his heart focused on his surroundings. Thus, Santiago is a symbol of all men that are aware of and actively pursuing his or her own individual Personal Legend.
Presented as a somewhat snooty man, the Englishman quickly emerged as a foil to the hero, Santiago. Both men wished to fulfill his own Personal Legend. However, while Santiago was able to learn, discern, and grow from things as simple as a camel or a caravan, the Englishman has his nose glued to books, convinced that knowledge was the only way to become an alchemist. After switching roles--the boy borrowing the Englishman's book and the Englishman focusing intently on the caravan and the desert--both discovered that he was not able to learn from the other. Also, after first arriving at the oasis, the Englishman finally met up with the alchemist and asked how to become one himself. The alchemist said simply, "Go and try" (95). The Englishman lacked courage. He lacked the willingness to fail--another fear Coelho wishes to terminate. This idea made the Englishman a symbol of men that know of a Personal Legend but that pursue it incorrectly by staring so intently at the drops of oil that the journey is completely forgotten. In this way, the Englishman also became a foil with this representation of mankind. As Santiago represented the balanced man that learns through risk-taking and wrong-turns, the Englishman contrasted him by representing the men that are crippled by the fear of failure.
Melchizedek, the King of Salem, presented himself to Santiago as a timeless, wise and all-knowing king that can appear in many forms. Melchizedek was a god that emerged as Santiago's first guide along the sometimes treacherous path of following a dream. In the book of Genesis, Melchizedek, a priest of the God Most High and the King of Salem, gave Abram--the man that God would eventually establish His covenant through--bread, wine, and his blessing. In return, Abram gave him a tenth of everything he owned. In The Alchemist, the King of Salem gave Santiago the stones Urim and Thummim, stones that guided Santiago along the path and assured him of the king's presence. The king also taught Santiago of the meaning of Personal Legends and encouraged him to embark on his journey. In return, Santiago gave Melchizedek a tenth of his sheep--a sacrifice contrasting the payment he made to the gypsy who asked for something Santiago did not already have. By giving a tenth of what he did have, Santiago spurred himself on to the fulfillment of his Personal Legend through the
It is also noteworthy to mention the fact that Melchizedek was a king that appeared to a shepherd, echoing the appearance of Jesus to the shepherds when he was first born. These two religious references coupled with the unorthodox views of changing appearances and another god outside of the One True God supports Coelho's view that all religions are interwoven, just as the universe is, and lead to the same place.
Melchizedek, who is referred to simply as "the king" for all of the book (save his introduction), symbolizes not only spiritual ideas but also all men our lives that help us navigate the confusing and often frustrating roads we follow.
The alchemist, an intially dislikable character, was highly mysterious. He, like the King of Salem, functioned as a guide for the boy but did not tell him what to do. Instead, he helped the boy discover what he already knew by challenging him and testing him in seemingly impossible ways, touching on the fear of impossibility yet again. The boy did not fully understand him or his motives until after he himself (the boy) turned into the wind. After this climactic act, the boy completed his discipleship with the alchemist and was called an alchemist himself. Though the alchemist may also represent another form of guide that may come alongside a man like Santiago for the purpose of discipleship and practical teaching, the alchemist functions primarily to reflect the symbolism of alchemy, a symbol that unlocks the broader picture of the Master Work and the Soul of the World returning to harmony. The alchemist is a character essential to these ideas.
Fatima, the only character ever referred to by an actual name one hundred percent of the time, was a beautiful woman of the desert. After first setting eyes on Fatima, ". . .it seemed to [Santiago] that time stood still, and the Soul of the World surged within him" (92). If there was ever an example of love at first sight, it would be Santiago and Fatima. Though Fatima was the only character that does not represent a larger entity, she is certainly another example of how chasing a Personal Legend will not result in the loss of love. Santiago was told by the alchemist that he was Fatima's treasure; after this, Fatima then demanded that Santiago find the Pyramids and his treasure. Faithfully, Fatima waited for Santiago's return, sending her kisses on the wind to encourage him. She is a prime example of how love can be a stimulus for our journey rather than a hindrance.
At the beginning of the novel, Santiago was heading back to the city of Tarifa where a lovely girl--the daughter of a merchant--lived. This girl, whose name was never mentioned even once, had listened to Santiago's stories and was impressed with them and his ability to read. Hoping to impress her again, Santiago prepared for his time with her and could hardly wait for the time to pass. Plans changed, however, when Santiago met up with Melchizedek who helped him start his Personal Legend before he could ever see the girl again. Before deparing, Santiago contemplated only for a moment whether or not he should stay for the girl. In that moment, the girl was presented as an example of a hindrance of Personal Legends. Though Fatima's love for him became a motivator, in the split second that he considered staying for the girl, Coelho unraveled the purpose of the girl as an example of how love can take one away from a Personal Legend. Additionally, the girl represents a broader group of people that man thinks the omens may be pointing to. However, upon closer examination, the path may take us in an entirely different direction, just as the omens took Santiago to Fatima.
The baker, whose story was told by the king, was a man that wished only to travel. However, before following his dream, he wanted first to set aside some money and become established. The king told Santiago, though, that "When he's an old man, he's going to spend a month in Africa. He never realized that people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of" (22-23). Though this short scene is all Santiago and the reader ever see of the baker, a very important message is relayed through it. Even if a man has wandered off the path to a bleak point that appears to be the point of no return, that man can always get back on the path. In this way, the baker represents all men that rediscover his or her own passion later in life.
The crystal merchant, the most prominent of all the minor characters, crossed paths with Santiago after he was robbed of all of his money. Lost and in desperate need of money, Santiago took a job with the crystal merchant and eventually learned that enthusiasm is key when pursuing a Personal Legend. Through their many conversations of the course of a year, Santiago learned that the crystal merchant wanted to travel to the city of Mecca to fulfill the final requirement presented by the Koran--his Personal Legend. To raise money, the crystal merchant opened his shop. For many months he worked, saving every cent he could to get to Mecca. When he finally had enough raised, however, he couldn't bring himself to leave. He couldn't entrust the shop to anyone else's care. After many, many years, the cyrstal merchant gave up on his dream, accepting the fact that he would never overcome his fears to the extent where he could leave. The crystal merchant had one base fear: the fear of what he would do after he achieved his Personal Legend. After Santiago questioned him as to why he wouldn't go to Mecca now, the crystal merchant replied, ". . . it's the thought of Mecca that keeps me alive. . . . I'm afraid that if my dream is realized, I'll have no reason to go on living" (55). The fourth and final fear that Coelho has made his mission of detonizing is the fear of what will happen after the Personal Legend is accomplished. Santiago himself faces this question and later determines that he will live for love after his Personal Legend is over. Though the drops of oil are finally set down, the journey itself never ends.
While The Alchemist had a personally relevent topic and a few interesting twists that I found enjoyable, there are a considerable number of things I did not like about the book.
2. The terms used to describe Santiago's purpose and the unity of the world--Personal Legend and Soul of the World--are very cheesy. When I first read "Personal Legend" spoken by the king, I said out loud, "You've got to be kidding me." These terms gave the book a feeling of immaturity and a lack of development and creativity. Though this may very well have been an unfortunate consequence due to translation, it was a turn-off for me nevertheless.
1. The Alchemist was originally written in Portuguese and then translated into English. When any language is translated, there is undoubtedly a loss of meaning in the translation. Some words in Portugues simply won't translate into English in a meaningful way. Additionally, the writing style of the Portuguese is not the same as the English writing style. Consequently, portions of the book felt choppy, lacking in smooth transitions, leaving me with a feeling of vertigo in some places as I tried to understand where the leaps had been made. This difference in language (which seems ironic in light of the theme of the Language of the World) took away from my experience of reading The Alchemist.
3. Though Coelho did a better job of handling the cliche subject matter of his book, at the end of the day it was difficult for me to get away from the bottom line that "one should always follow his or her dream." Many books have been written on this topic, and many adults drill these ideas into my head. It was impossible for me to avoid that feeling of "I've heard this all before."
4. Finally, the pacing of the book was not well executed. This may again be a weakness attributed to the differences in language and culture, but the book was much too short and lacked in specificity, description, and elaboration, causing the book to feel rushed the entire way through. As Santiago neared the treasure, what should have been climactic and epic was dissatisfying and underdeveloped.
Overall, I liked many things about The Alchemist.
1. I found this book to be incredibly relatable. With its talk of finding and achieving your dreams, I could identify whole-heartedly with Santiago on his quest for "treasure." In my own life, I have begun to question what my treasure might look like. The practical life lessons of perseverance, courage, and overcoming obstacles were a timely refresher in this transformative time in my own life.
2. I enjoyed reading The Alchemist the second time through. The first reading was more for me to identify the major themes, but as I went back through the second time I found myself sifting through the small pieces of foreshadowing dropped by Coelho and the subtle way that the entire book--with all of its symbols, themes, motifs, and characters--were seemlessly interwoven.
3. Although Coelho's main story line (follow your dreams) is overwhelmingly cliche, he kept me from being bored to tears with an interesting twist at the end. After finding the Pyramids, Santiago discovered that his treasure was buried beneath a tree in the yard of an abandoned church--the very place where the opening scene occurred. Not only did this surprise me as a reader, but I also felt the story come full circle, a very important quality of a book that talks extensively about unity.
4. The way Coelho's characters were presented was a highly appealing aspect of the story to me. When books have many characers with names beginning with the same letter or with confusing identities, I have a hard time following the story line and therefore resort to calling the main character "the boy" and additional people "the mom" or "the uncle." In The Alchemist, this was completely avoided because the characters are already presented in those terms. I didn't have to worry about remembering any names, and it also gave a unique feel to the book.
Though the book was first published in 1988, The Alchemist had been translated into sixty-nine languages by the year 2009. This very literal univeral appeal is not surprising for a novel like The Alchemist. Its pages reveal a timeless message, making the novel a story applicable to people of all ages and backgrounds--not just men or women, not just teenagers, not just Americans. Because it does not exclude any world religions, the story's spiritual themes are widely accepted in today's worldview of religion cenetered on tolerance and pantheistic views. The book is also centered around a happy and hopeful tone, one that is not discouraging or depressing in any way. Santiago fulfilled his Personal Legend and all became right with the world: a happy ending everyone hopes to read at the end. Though the novel contains its downfalls--most of which can be attributed simply to the nature of the beast of translation--one would be hardpressed to find a soul in the universe that could not identify with at least one character or theme in The Alchemist.
5. The Alchemist's greatest strength is its many tiers that kept my attention. While the book can be looked at as simply an adventure book, a story about a boy looking for some treasure, it can also be seen from a spiritual perspective as a boy that wishes to discover his purpose and the purpose of all other things in the world; why did God create them? Coelho does not leave this question unanswered, informing the reader clearly that all things exist to fulfill a Personal Legend so that the Master Work may be fulfilled. Additionally, the book leaves the reader with a question: what separates Santiago from other characters like the baker or the crystal merchant who do not achieve their Personal Legend? Is this controlled by fate or is Santiago in control of his own destiny? While Coelho hints that fate does not exist, the question is intentionally left unanswered to cause the reader to think critically about this idea of fate versus the idea of freedom and free will. These three views kept my brain spinning as I read and reread the novel, trying to understand all of the themes, ideas, and views being presented.
6. The Alchemist is a highly complex novel. Though the idea of the Soul of the World can be reduced to an understandable entity as part Soul of God and part Soul of Santiago, so many pieces of information about the Soul of the World are mentioned and eluded to throughout the book. The idea of the Soul of the World is like a puzzle--one with thousands of intricate pieces that paint a picture of a soul that speaks a language of love, unity, and harmony. Also, the idea of alchemy portrayed by both the Englishman and the alchemist, is left to be sort of a mysetrious element, one that is not spelled out until the very end, adding an extra element of interest that causes the reader to think. The ambiguities of the character's names and the time period all the book to exist outside of time and simple people, making it a universal book that could be plausible and applicable no matter the day or the place.