What are some of the more important lessons Santiago learns in Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many lessons that Santiago learns in Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist. Truthfully, I find something new each time I pick the book up again. One of the beautiful things about this short novel is that the simplistic story is overflowing with meaningful pieces of wisdom (life-lessons).

Santiago learns that things are not always as they appear. For instance, he thinks his recurring dream is a promise of money; actually it is a promise of personal achievement, and hopes and dreams realized. He believes that the young man who befriends him in the market place is actually trying to help him, but Santiago learns that the man was only interested in stealing his money.

Santiago learns that the world around him is speaking to him through omens all the time. One of the most impressive omens that Santiago recognizes is that of the hawks fighting: the vision that comes to him reveals that the oasis will be attacked, and he is able (through his warning) to save lives.

Santiago learns that sometimes a negative thing can really be a blessing in disguise. When he is robbed, he is tempted to give up the pursuit of his Personal Legend. When he is forced to work for the crystal merchant, he must learn patience. He finds satisfaction in what he does, but helps the merchant as well. The "boy" also learns important lessons from the life experiences of the crystal merchant—things that convince him to continue.

From the Englishman, Santiago discovers that he cannot be what he is not: this includes trying to think like the Englishman. Santiago's companion (while crossing the desert) believes that knowledge comes from books. Santiago considers this and even tries to learn this way, but he soon finds that books do not speak to him: the world does, through omens and the Language of the Universe.

There are many other things Santiago learns, but perhaps the most important lesson is that life's rewards sometimes present themselves in surprising or unexpected ways. Some of the things that become the most valuable to Santiago are finding love with Fatima, becoming one with the universe and connecting with the Soul of the World. He finds surprising riches on his journey to find himself.

tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the first lessons that the boy learns comes after he is robbed in Tangier. As he looks at the people around him the next morning, he realizes the following:

He was learning a lot of new things. Some of them were things that he had already experienced, and weren't really new, but that he had never perceived before. . . He realized: If I can learn to understand this language without words, I can learn to understand the world. (43-44)

Most young people want to understand the world in which they live—the boy isn't much different. Consequently, not only does he want to understand the world, but he wants to carve out a life for himself by realizing his Personal Legend and finding his treasure. Therefore, after being robbed, he examines his choice: to go back to his old life or to continue forward with his journey. It is at this point that he realizes that he must get back up and try again whenever he is knocked down, if he is ever to succeed. As a result, Santiago pays closer attention to omens in an effort to keep learning and heading in the right direction.

As he learns more about omens, he ultimately learns more about the Language of the World. The most important lesson that Santiago learns is that the Language of the World is connected to the Soul of the World, which is God. Once he learns this, he is able to create miracles for himself, as in the following passage:

The boy reached through to the Soul of the World and saw that it was a part of the Soul of God. And he saw that the Soul of God was his own soul. And that he, a boy, could perform miracles. (152)

This is the most vital lesson because once he understands this, he is able to change himself into the wind and escape death for himself and the Alchemist. It is also this understanding that completes his training in preparation for finding his treasure and realizing his Personal Legend. 

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The Alchemist

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