What events in Coelho's The Alchemist affect Santiago and shape his view of life?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Coelho's The Alchemist, there are many things that affect Santiago (the boy) and shape his view of life, as well as his choices.

When Santiago has sold his sheep, and is preparing to travel to Egypt to see the pyramids, a young man befriends him—who ultimately steals Santiago’s money, forcing him to take stock of his life. For a time he is in a desperate state.

He was feeling sorry for himself, and lamenting the fact that his life could have changed so suddenly and so drastically. 

In such a state, he cannot move forward. Santiago cleverly convinces the crystal merchant to hire him on as a clerk, soon turning the business around, much to the merchant's delight. For a good deal of the time he works, the boy plans to make enough money to buy more sheep and return home. However, as Santiago listens to the crystal merchant who turned his back on his dreams and still regrets it—even in the face of financial success—Santiago revisits his decision to turn back. Eventually, he moves on, always getting closer to realizing his dreams.

He had not a cent in his pocket, but he had faith. He had decided, the night before, that he would be as much an adventurer as the ones he had admired in books. 

The gypsy he meets, who he does not trust, also turns Santiago in the direction of pursuing his dreams—speaking of the pyramids, though Santiago does not see this meeting as a fortunate event at first.

The King of Salem, Melchizedek, comes to Santiago (as he has done with others) at the very moment the boy is ready to give up: for the King's purpose is to give one who is lost just the slightest nudge of hope—that one extra step that will lead to success. He tells Santiago the very thing he needs to hear in order to open his eyes to the possibilities of what life holds for him—if he will only persevere. And he tells Santiago about THE lie:

“Everyone believes the world's greatest lie..." says the mysterious old man.

"What is the world's greatest lie?" the little boy asks.

The old man replies, "It's this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what's happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That's the world's greatest lie.”

This empowers Santiago.

The Englishman and his love of books and his inability to understand the natural world around him, demonstrate to Santiago that there is more to life than man's knowledge. Santiago is unaffected by the books that the Englishman depends on; it is in noticing the omens around him that Santiago sees life differently, hears the world speaking to him, is able to avoid disaster, and is able to save himself on several occasions.

Even the mysterious alchemist insists that Santiago learn what he needs to know, on his own. The alchemist guides Santiago, but it is Santiago that must learn to speak to the wind and the sun in order to save himself from certain death.

Upon reflection, Santiago realizes the pattern in all that he experiences, and in meeting the many characters that influence the path he ultimately takes. Even the thieves at the end of the story push Santiago toward home—toward the tree. This is the final part of the boy's journey, to realize his Personal Legend.

Santiago comes to see how each person and event worked in concert to help him achieve his dreams. He finally understands:

When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.