What point does the old man make in the story about the boy in the castle and the drops of oil?  How might the old man’s story apply to us in our modern lives?

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story is a great story with a wonderful lesson.  In the story, a boy is told to carry a spoonful of oil around a castle.  He is specifically told not to drop any of the oil.  When he returns, no oil has been spilled, but the boy couldn't remember any of the beautiful castle that he just walked through.  He is sent through the castle again, but this time the boy is told to look at the castle.  

'Then go back and observe the marvels of my world,' said the wise man. 'You cannot trust a man if you don't know his house.'

When the boy returns he is able to explain the wonders that he saw, but all of the oil in the spoon was spilled.  

The point of the story is balance.  We are to take in the beauty of the world while remembering our responsibilities.  

'Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you,' said the wisest of wise men. 'The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.'

It applies to our modern day lives, because too often people wear their busy lives like a badge of honor.  They are so busy working and moving around doing things that they never take the time to really see the world of beauty around them.  The advice reminds me of the saying "take time to smell the roses."  It's great to accomplish your job well, but if you never take pleasure in doing it and seeing what's around, then you aren't living a full life.  

Read the study guide:
The Alchemist

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