Some readers consider the end of Coelho's The Alchemist to be a bit of a let down; what other kind of treasure could Santiago have found to give the ending more impact?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Paulo Coelho's novel, The Alchemist, some might expect something more exciting at the end of the story. I cannot imagine any other treasure that Santiago could ask for. He knows that when he gets home, he knows where his material treasure will be. One of the thieves that robs him at the Pyramids gives Santiago the answer.

I dreamed that I should travel to the fields of Spain and look for a ruined church where shepherds and their sheep slept. In my dream, there was a sycamore growing out of the ruins of the sacristy, and I was told that, if I dug at the roots of the sycamore, I would find a hidden treasure.

The thief explains the attempt to follow such a dream as stupidity on his part. However, we realize—as does Santiago—that the thief is walking away from his Personal Legend.

Santiago's second treasure calls to him when he has traveled home to that abandoned church where he and his sheep had rested at the beginning of the story. He has come full circle. However, his journey is not quite over, and he has not collected all the rewards that have been promised to him by virtue of pursuing his Personal Legend.

The wind began to blow again. It was the levanter, the wind that came from Africa. It didn't bring with it the smell of the desert, nor the threat of Moorish invasion. Instead it brought the scent of a perfume he knew well, and the touch of a kiss—a kiss that came from far away, slowly, slowly, until it rested on his lips.

He recognizes that it comes from the woman he loves, Fatima. He recognizes, also, the magic in this "gesture," and he speaks to the wind—to Fatima—that he is coming.

Santiago has gained spiritual satisfaction; he has won the love of the woman who returns his feelings—these are treasures. And he has returned home to collect the material treasure buried beneath the tree—information he received from another dreamer. Perhaps if there is any anti-climactic feeling, it may be because of the story's structure.

Traditionally, when we are younger we are told stories—fairytales. At the end, the hero wins the hand of the beautiful princess (or he saves her, or both) and there is treasure enough that they live in a palace, "happily ever after." Perhaps some feel that a piece is missing in this story. Sometimes the message is seemingly so simple—but also impressive in so subtly delivering the philosophy of the truly valuable things in life. In the fairytale, perhaps some readers expect a traditional ending—a solid resolution. In a sense, the reader may more easily recognize formula-like writing: the introduction, description of characters, presentation of the overriding conflict, plot development, the turning point, resolution of the conflict, etc.

However, authors of even some of the shortest stories have moved away from following any kind of formula, "process-oriented" or predictable literary forms to create a new and unique structure, as is the case with Edgar Allan Poe.

If happiness, fulfillment, love and material gain are not enough, I cannot imagine that there could be anything left for Santiago to wish for other than power: and if the author remains true to the characteristics of the man he has created in Santiago, power is not something he would want.

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The Alchemist

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