What does Santiago notice at the abandoned church that he takes shelter in on his way to the merchant?

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Santiago is a shepherd boy who genuinely loves his sheep. He even calls each sheep by name. While he is traveling through familiar country in Andalusia, he happens upon a dilapidated church that he has stayed at once before. One interesting characteristic about this abandoned church is that "an enormous sycamore had grown on the spot where the sacristy had once stood" (3). Not only that, but there is a fence that keeps the flock in during the night. All he has to do is lay some planks across the broken gate and the sheep will not run off. 

What is most interesting about the church, however--and what Santiago notices specifically--is that the last time he had stayed at this church he had dreamed a dream that made him "feel anger toward his faithful companions" (7). He experienced feelings about his sheep that he had not felt before, such as thinking that they were dumb beasts and that he could destroy them easily if he chose to do so. The following is another realization he has at the church:

"If I became a monster today, and decided to kill them, one by one, they would become aware only after most of the flock had been slaughtered, thought the boy. They trust me, and they've forgotten how to rely on their own instincts, because I lead them to nourishment" (7).

Santiago is surprised that he would feel these negative things and believes that the sycamore must be haunted. Then there is the curious dream that he had both times while staying at the church that confuses him. He decides that he better investigate its meaning by seeking out an old woman in Tarifa who may be able to interpret it for him. He was on his way there anyway to sell wool and see the Merchant's daughter, so he decides to find the old woman as well. 

"It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting, he thought, as he looked again at the position of the sun, and hurried his pace" (11).

 

Read the study guide:
The Alchemist

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