In The Alchemist, why does the fascination with pictures and words eliminate the "Language of the World"?

In The Alchemist, the fascination with pictures and words eliminates the "Language of the World" because this language is not found in books with words or pictures, but discovered through patient observance of the omens found within the world itself.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The boy in The Alchemist learns to communicate in the Language of the World in order to achieve his Personal Legend. The Language of the World, however, is not learned through words and pictures, but through omens as perceived through the heart, mind, and body of the boy. Anyone who...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The boy in The Alchemist learns to communicate in the Language of the World in order to achieve his Personal Legend. The Language of the World, however, is not learned through words and pictures, but through omens as perceived through the heart, mind, and body of the boy. Anyone who pays attention to the spiritual, physical, and mental aspects of the world around them can learn how to communicate in the Language of the World. The boy represents anyone, really.

While in the oasis as the caravan rested, the boy realizes that his senses are learning to notice omens from the spiritual world through the physical one better each day. In fact, he notices a hawk's flight pattern and realizes that the oasis would soon be in trouble through a quick vision he has.

Suddenly, one of the hawks made a flashing dive through the sky, attacking the other. As it did so, a sudden, fleeting image came to the boy: an army, with its swords at the ready, riding into the oasis. The vision vanished immediately but it had shaken him. (100)

The boy tries to push the omen away, but then he remembers that the king in the beginning of the story told him never to ignore omens, so he sets out to tell the elders of the oasis that an army was on its way. The boy is proven correct, and this aids his confidence with reading the Language of the World.

Because the boy heeds omens and learns how to speak the Language of the World, he later is able to speak to the Soul of the World, the desert, the wind, and even the sun, before he finally achieves his own Personal Legend. An Englishman who read and studied books and pictures his whole life never learns to speak the Language of the World because he never learns how to notice and honor omens. The Language of the World doesn't speak in any one language, per se, but communicates through the omens seen by those who observe and quiet themselves long enough to understand what they experience in the world.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team