Discuss the characters in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Expert Answers
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my opinion, the major characters in Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist are Santiago (the boy), the King of Salem, the Englishman, the crystal merchant, the alchemist, and Fatima.

Santiago is a young man who decides to become a shepherd so that he may travel and not be tied in one place. On his "life journey," he learns from the King of Salem (Melchizedek) that he has a Personal Legend— the reality of his life's dream if he will only believe in it enough to pursue it and thus realize it.

The journey is not an easy one, as is the case with life, and there are moments when Santiago is ready to quit and once again become a shepherd. During one such time, Santiago takes a job with a crystal merchant, working for him for eleven months to make money to buy more sheep. He helps the merchant greatly improve his business, and over time, they become close. It is from the merchant that Santiago further learns the importance of pursuing one's Personal Legend. The merchant also once had such a dream, but he allowed himself to be diverted from his purpose. Now, well-established with his business and much older, he is no longer able to pursue his dream to travel to Mecca, and he has regrets. Eventually Santiago does leave, but not to buy sheep—he decides to continue his quest.

While traveling by caravan across the desert to find the alchemist, Santiago meets the Englishman, who also wishes to find the same man. The Englishman has a dream to learn to change common metals into gold (called "alchemy"). He believes that he can learn most of what he needs from books and he tries to convince Santiago that his truth is Santiago's truth: that Santiago must read. Santiago tells the Englishman to listen to the sounds of the desert to hear the universal language that all parts of the world speak to each other. In time, both men realize that they cannot live the other's dream, or walk his path. Whereas Santiago is following a path that will not only help him reach his dream but find true happiness in life, the Englishman can only see the draw of the gold, and he will never achieve his Personal Legend.

At the oasis, Santiago meets Fatima, who lives there. He immediately falls in love, realizing that should he die at that moment, it would all have been worth it, for love brings him true happiness…and Fatima feels the same about Santiago.

The alchemist is the last major character that Santiago meets. The alchemist is very knowledgeable, speaking not only the Universal Language, but knowing, too, how to become one with the Soul of the World (which you are closest to "when you want something with all your heart"). He knows that for Santiago to realize his Personal Legend, "you must do the things you think you cannot do:" he must turn himself into the wind. A seemingly impossible task, Santiago is driven by his will to survive the threat of the soldiers at the military camp where he and the alchemist have been taken prisoner. He succeeds, but realizes that even though he may acquire wealth, that which he values the most is his love for Fatima.

Santiago tells the sun, "Love is the force that transforms and improves…" This is what love does for Santiago…and he fulfills his Personal Legend.