In Coelho's The Alchemist, Santiago journeys through the desert with the alchemist. He is told of many basic truths. The alchemist says, “There is only one way to learn. It’s through action....

In Coelho's The Alchemist, Santiago journeys through the desert with the alchemist. He is told of many basic truths. The alchemist says, “There is only one way to learn. It’s through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.” What are some of the things Santiago has learned through action?

 

 

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Coelho's The Alchemist, Santiago journeys through the desert and learns many basic truths.

The alchemist helps Santiago to understand that the reason he does not leave the oasis is because he is fearful that he might never return. He worries about leaving Fatima, his sweetheart. The boy's teacher reminds him:

Fatima is a woman of the desert...She knows that men have to go away in order to return.

The alchemist also explains that while Fatima will never ask Santiago to stay at the oasis rather than pursuing his treasure, he will one day have regrets. This reminds the reader of the crystal merchant—he did not listen to his heart, and therefore can never achieve his heart's treasure. After all, the alchemist reminds Santiago, Fatima will wait for him for she has found her treasure—and that is Santiago.

Santiago also learns that love never prohibits one from pursuing his heart's delight. The alchemist explains:

You must understand that love never keeps a man from pursuing his Personal Legend. If he abandons that pursuit, it's because it wasn't true love...

The alchemist and Santiago are taken prisoner. The alchemist reminds the boy, who has lost all he has saved, of a basic truth: "It's not often that money saves a person's life."

The old man has also told the chief that Santiago can destroy the camp by harnessing the wind, becoming the wind. The chief demands to see this, or they will die. Santiago is overwhelmed, certain that he will be killed because he believes he cannot do what has been asked of him. The alchemist provides the boy with another life truth:

Don't give in to your fears...If you do, you won't be able to talk to your heart. [...] There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.

Once again we are presented (as is Santiago) with the knowledge that fear paralyzes those who give in to it.

When Santiago perceives the spirit of God, "the hand that wrote all," he learns that everything comes from and returns to God. Not knowing reasons for any of the things that have happened to him, the boy (experiencing an epiphany) realizes that "the hand had a reason for all...and that only the hand could perform miracles." Santiago learns that all things are a part of the Soul of God—the God of creation, of the Master Work—and that his soul was a part of the Soul of God as well. With the Soul of God's power, the boy could perform miracles.

It is in this way that Santiago is able to do as the chief has demanded. The simum (sand storm) blew; the tents are wrenched from where they had been grounded, and the horses' tethers were released. This is done because Santiago has come to understand the way of the Soul of the World and the Soul of God, who has given him the power to succeed.

The men were terrified...But there were two people who were smiling: the alchemist, because he had found his perfect disciple, and the chief, because that disciple had understood the glory of God.

From this we can infer that not only is this a truth well known by the alchemist and now understood by Santiago, but it is also something of which the chief had been aware all along.

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The Alchemist

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