How do Santiago’s thoughts and perceptions about himself and the world begin to change?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, Santiago is a young boy with whose life consists of dreaming of finding a treasure and tending to his sheep. He has no sense that the universe holds any mysteries for him to unfold.

Santiago sells his sheep to find the treasure he dreams of in Africa. After meeting several people and learning to listen to nature, Santiago learns important things about life and himself.

He meets Melchizedek (the King of Salem) and learns that he has a Personal Legend, and he will achieve his dreams if he will pursue it. At a time when Santiago doubts the path he has chosen because he has faced enormous disappointment, he receives valuable insight from the man:

"Everyone believes the world's greatest lie . . . " says the mysterious old man . . . that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what's happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate . . . "

Even with Melchizedek's wisdom, after losing all of his money Santiago takes a job working for a crystal merchant. He intends to make enough money to buy a new flock of sheep and return home, abandoning his quest. However, from the merchant he learns that one should never be diverted from pursuing one's Personal Legend, or his (or her) life will be filled with regret. 

Traveling in the desert Santiago learns that nature speaks to those who will listen. He also learns that "when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." Santiago comes to believe that the world is helping him to realize his quest.

From the alchemist, he learns to speak not only the Universal Language but also how to become one with the Soul of the World.

The alchemist tells Santiago:

. . . you must do the things you think you cannot do.

Santiago also comes to understand:

Love is the force that transforms and improves . . .

Santiago leaves Fatima to search for the treasure. He realizes his dream in a way that he could not possibly have imagined. As he finds material treasure, he realizes that his love for Fatima is the greatest treasure—one he could only have found by being faithful in pursuing his Personal Legend, and never losing sight of his dreams.

rugator eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Like life itself, Santiago's perceptions about himself and his world begin to change as his life experiences change. Unlike many, however, it's not so much the changes that take place, but his reactions to those changes that make the difference.

At first, Santiago's world view are colored by his rather provincial upbringing. His journey out of his known world bring him into contact with people who and experiences that open his eyes to the possibilities for fulfilling his "personal legend." One of the many telling episodes in the story is the tale he's told of the "oil and the spoon." In this story, he learns of the challenge of recognizing the possibilities before you and those present in the larger world context. Once open to this new reality, Santiago is able to see himself in terms of the world while recognizing what he already possesses. This enables him to go forward with more confidence knowing that in his possession are many of the tools he needs to realize his potential.

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The Alchemist

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