What are Santiago's good characteristics—things he could use to teach the reader—in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, Santiago is a young man who notices a great deal, who doesn't easily give up and who is open to learning new things.

In the story, Santiago pays a great deal of attention to his sheep. He has learned where to graze them and when to move them. He is aware of how to keep them safe and where best to shelter them from weather or predators. He knows his sheep well, he cares for them and they trust him.

When Melchizedek encourages Santiago to pay attention to omens, Santiago realizes that this is something he has already been doing, based on advice given to him by his grandfather.

He remembered something his grandfather had once told him: that butterflies were a good omen.

In the same way, Santiago will see the hawks fighting over the oasis and be able to convey the message that soldiers are coming to attack the oasis—simply by reading the universal language of the desert.

When Santiago is robbed, like a child who has been hurt, he wants to run away and go home. However, he has no money so he is forced to take a job and wait until the money is made. During this time, the boy has a great deal of time to consider his options, and he learns from the crystal merchant for whom he works.

...people were passing my shop all the time, heading for Mecca. Some of them were rich pilgrims, traveling in caravans with servants and camels, but most of the people making the pilgrimage were poorer than I...All who went there were happy at having done so.

Santiago takes this story to heart and realizes that he does not want to turn around. He takes his money and signs on with a caravan which will make the long and dangerous journey across the desert to the oasis.

And Santiago is open to learning new things. He reads the Englishman's books in order to better understand the world: specifically, alchemy. He watches signs in the desert, looking for omens and discovering that he can speak the universal language. He allows himself to learn at the side of the alchemist, and accomplishes things he never thought himself capable of.

All of these characteristics are inspiring: we should all learn to watch things happening all around us; it is important to set goals and stick to them; and, it is paramount to never stop learning, and to never believe that learning takes place only in a classroom or by reading a book. These examples reflect worthwhile characteristics.