In Coelho's The Alchemist, explain who or what the author is referring to when he says "the universe"—particularly in "the universe conspires to help you achieve what you want."

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Coelho's The Alchemist is inspired by a religious pilgrimage he went on, walking...

...the 500-plus mile Road of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, a turning point in his life. On the path, Coelho had a spiritual awakening…

What he realized was that one needs to follow his or her dreams in order to be truly happy—which is a central theme in the story.

The universe in the story refers to the entirety of creation: everything. Santiago learns that all things are connected—not just all members of the human race, but man and nature as well. The omens Santiago sees represent the oneness of the world. They are elements of nature and are a part of the universe (just as he is) that are trying to help him succeed. For example, he has a vision of the hawks fighting; the universe is speaking to him, giving him a warning sign of what is to come. By accepting this concept, Santiago is able to save the oasis, is respected, and finally meets the alchemist, all as he was meant to do...with the help of the universe. 

The reader gets the sense that the Hand That Writes All, or the Soul of the World, is God. He has created all things in the world. He controls everything. When speaking to the sun, Santiago explains that...

...everything has its Personal Legend, but one day that Personal Legend will be realized. So each thing has to transform itself into something better, and to acquire a new Personal Legend, until, someday, the Soul of the World becomes one thing only.

So all things in the universe are made of the same celestial stuff—from the Soul of the World, to which all will eventually return. And because this is so, everything in nature works to help people find their Personal Legend. Each element and creature in the world must find its own Personal Legend to achieve that state which is best for it—just as Santiago must learn the Language of the World, find Fatima, discover his treasure, and discover his relationship to the rest of the world. 

Everyone has a Personal Legend and can find happiness, but only if he is willing to work at it. As an example, we see with the robber who ignores his recurring dream that he will never realize his Personal Legend. 

It is inferred that the Soul of the World is all-powerful and all-knowing. The sun states that it knows the Soul of the World, which has said...

...that its greatest problem is that, up until now, only the minerals and vegetables understand that all things are one.

So the universe is all that has been created. And because "all things are one," each element of the universe works together (or "conspires") to help each individual achieve what he wants if he commits himself to the process. The universe is made up of all things in the world, working in concert for the good of all its parts.