To what degree is Santiago’s father’s observation about travelers (page 9) true about Santiago?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Santiago's father makes a couple of observations about travelers.  One such observation is that the only people of their kind who travel are shepherds.  Another observation is that those who travel away from their worlds only come to miss them, resulting in painful nostalgia in that which was once had and now lost.  Finally, Santiago's father argues that travelers end up coming "in search of new things, but when they leave they are basically the same people they were when they arrived."  All of these are variations on the basic resistance that Santiago's father expresses about Santiago's desire to travel.

Certainly, Santiago believes that these observations will not be true in his case.  The one that Santiago believes to be true is that the life of the shepherd is synonymous with traveling.  Yet, from this point, he is steadfast in the pursuit of his dreams.  Santiago believes that his journey and his need to reconfigure reality as to what can be as opposed to what is will overcome such objections.  He believes that his quest will be fundamentally different than the objections his father raise. Santiago hopes that his father's observations about travelers and the larger issue of what it means to dream will not prove to be true about him.

reidalot eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Alchemist, Santiago's father believes that traveling is for wealthy people unless one is a shepherd. However, he also believes that as shepherds travel with their flock, they will come to the same conclusion as the tourists who visit Andalusia. That is, that all travelers are looking for new things, yet when they return from their travels, they are basically the same people that they were before their adventure.

Ironically, this belief does not stop the father from wanting to travel. "The boy could see in his father's gaze a desire to be able, himself, to travel the world" (9). However, the father was too caught up with real life, supplying the necessities to his family, to realize his dream of traveling. In this way, Santiago's desire to travel symbolizes youth's desire to explore and discover new lands and adventure. Santiago wants to see the travelers' lands and to discover how they live firsthand. His father gives him his blessing to do just that.

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The Alchemist

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